The four day bank holiday weekend felt very special! In the UK, we had glorious sunshine and there are blossoms, daisies and bluebells everywhere! In addition, this last weekend many of us celebrated Vaisakhi, Passover, Ramadan and Easter. This wonderful coincidence of four religious holidays, with sunshine and all the signs of Spring has certainly lifted my spirits and I sense many others too. So – Happy Easter, Chag Sameach, Happy Vaisakhi and Ramadan Mubarak! Or simply, Happy Spring!
I know that many of you worked this last weekend and that rotas around the country continue to be decimated by staff sickness. And so, while I want to retain the energy and joy of Spring in my mind, I am not naïve to the challenges we face. I worry that some of our youngest doctors are already concerned about how they will sustain a career working like this. They are working and learning at one of the most challenging times since the formation of the NHS. They are correct to be asking what is being done to ensure the future looks different. I also worry that my generation of doctors is fearing for how they can continue to work in this way. Some, we know, will consider early retirement and this represents a massive loss in knowledge, experience and wisdom – at a time when we need it most. It is no longer considered soft and sentimental to talk about staff wellbeing. The wellbeing of the health and social care workforce is fundamental to how the NHS recovers and continues to deliver excellent compassionate care. Wellbeing means different things to different people but fundamentally the NHS has to think differently about how it looks after its most precious resource – its staff. My colleague and RCPCH Officer for Lifelong Careers, Dr Dal Hothi, put it most eloquently – “Wellbeing is now for clinicians, what safety is for patients.”
The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate and the images that occupy our television screens each night are increasingly distressing. With over five million Ukrainians now refugees, their plight and needs are justifiably a priority. As a College, we have worked and given support in similar situations in other countries over the years and so the resources we have are useful. We are updating and refreshing our resources for Ukraine on our website regularly and I specifically want to draw your attention to our statement on safeguarding. In addition, our global team have been working hard to adapt some of their paediatric instructional videos made previously in other languages and translate them into Ukrainian. A number of these videos will be available next week, so do look out for those on our website.
Our response to the COVID-19 Inquiry
The UK COVID-19 Inquiry is now being set up and the draft Terms of Reference were published in March. While we know that children were less seriously affected by COVID-19 than adults in direct terms, we are of the strongly held belief that the Inquiry must include the impact on children and young people’s mental health, safeguarding, widening child health inequalities and the interruption to both paediatric training and routine child health surveillance and vaccination programmes. We have therefore responded to the Terms of Reference Consultation by laying out clearly our concerns.
Northern Ireland Assembly Election 2022
Every opportunity to give children and young people’s matters attention, needs to be grabbed. The forthcoming elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly are just such a moment. We have a Manifesto from RCPCH Northern Ireland which Ray Nethercott, RCPCH Officer for Ireland and the Policy and Public Affairs Team (NI) worked with members to produce. The Manifesto clearly lays out our call for making child health and wellbeing a national priority in Northern Ireland. Our members in Northern Ireland can also get in touch with their local candidates and to make this easy for them to do, there is a useful online tool available on the RCPCH website.
Child Health Inequalities: a hidden pandemic?
Child health inequalities is everyone’s business. I am delighted therefore that we are collaborating with the Faculty of Dental Surgery and the Faculty of Public Health, to deliver a one-day conference on 6 May – “Child Health Inequalities: a hidden pandemic?” It’s not too late – please book to join us at the Royal College of Surgeons of England as we hear from eminent speakers and run a series of workshops including taking forward health inequality toolkits and a practical approach to the health needs of migrant children. I’m really excited about this collaboration – please come along!
Look back to our impact in 2021
It is very important to stop and reflect on what we have been busy doing. It is so easy to focus on what did not go so well or where we think we could have done better. The RCPCH Annual Review 2021 has just been published and I would encourage you to take a few minutes to read it. I am really proud of what we have achieved collectively last year. Hundreds of paediatricians all over the world contribute to our work. I think you’ll agree that our College has much to be proud of – and we did this together!
The best job
Challenges certainly lie ahead. However, there is still so much joy to be found in our work. I was reminded again about this by a Tweet from Vic Parsonson over the Bank Holiday weekend: “Paeds night shift: managed some sick kids, did a few cannulas, stealthily decorated my sleeping birthday patient’s room with birthday bling ….. I have the best job”!
With my best wishes, and take care,
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