COVID-19 - message from the President, 12 June

It's week 16 in our new hyper-reality and it's again been a pretty complex period. In this week's address to members, Russell highlights new College statements on BAME inequalities, shielding and supporting LGBTQ+ children and young people, as well as our continued focus on restarting services.

Each week I hope that things may be starting to settle into a more normal rhythm – and each week it feels like it ratchets up. It’s another busy period for the College as we publish sets of guidance and statements on BAME inequalities, shielding and supporting LGBTQ+ children and young people, and continue our focus on restarting clinical services and supporting children getting back to school.

I wanted first to thank everyone who’s replied to these emails. I try not to be a pest in terms of frequency, and it’s very nice to hear that these updates have been useful. For me, it’s helped with a sense of rhythm and encourages me to do a bit of reflection at the end of each week.

...I hope that the pandemic shares equal billing with a moment when it is no longer tolerable to ignore the pain and hurt and missed opportunity experienced by many of our fellow citizens

I wrote last week about the Public Health England report on how the pandemic has affected BAME communities, and our shared horror at the death of George Floyd. As a white man I try to approach these issues with humility and caution. I am also very conscious of how little I know of the lived experience of many BAME colleagues – and how much each of us must do to get beyond lip service with our BAME colleagues, friends and fellow citizens. This week we published a statement of solidarity about the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities, and I shared some personal reflections

These issues are all interconnected. We see it in the appalling sight of a knee on the neck of George Floyd, we see it in our hospitals where COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people of BAME heritage and we see it in the data where children from an ethnic minority background often have vastly poorer health outcomes than their white peers. When the history of 2020 is written, I hope that the pandemic shares equal billing with a moment when it is no longer tolerable to ignore the pain and hurt and missed opportunity experienced by many of our fellow citizens. I know that many of you felt bereft watching the events of recent weeks and I am conscious that I can only imagine how that must feel. What I can commit to is listening, action and change. The College has not always been a leader in this area, and nor has the health service. The need to do better is urgent, and I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks and months.

[conversations about shielding are] complicated and decisions should be made in agreement between parents, the young person and a doctor

We also published guidance for members this week on the shielding of clinically vulnerable children. Like many decisions at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a broad brush and an abundance of caution. It was a novel virus and there was an understandable determination to shield high risk groups. We now know a lot more about how COVID-19 is affecting children. While the social effects have been enormous (and in my view, devastating), the clinical impact has been limited. This guidance is designed to help you have evidence-based conversations with parents about who should continue to shield. These are not easy conversations and are made more difficult by the understandable hunger among parents for absolute clarity. The truth is, like all things COVID-related, it’s complicated and decisions should be made in agreement between parents, the young person and a doctor. I hope to hear more from government on this next week.

We also published a statement of support for LGBTQ+ young people. This was a labour of love for many at the College and I know it involved input from a lot of members. Crucially, it was informed by the actual experiences of LGBTQ+ young people, and as ever I’m very proud of the work RCPCH&US does to lift up our work with young voices. It’s also lovely to see how many organisations got behind the statement. I’d like to wish all our LGBTQ+ members a very happy (if somewhat less social) Pride month. 

Finally, the summer issue of Milestones is out now. We have an extensive feature on wellbeing, with contributions from members around the UK, sharing ways they have been supporting each other during the pandemic. There’s also a focus on this year’s PAFTA winners - recognising and celebrating paediatric training achievements around the country.

That’s all for now.

Russell


This message was emailed to all RCPCH members who are opted in to receive College updates / professional updates. You can update your contact preferences at any time - log in to your RCPCH online account, go to My account | Your contact preferences, then make sure you've ticked College updates / professional updates.