COVID-19 - message from the President, 20 March

"We are now living through a time of unprecedented challenges for our health service and society. We will face this massive task together." Russell provides an update for our members.

Most of you will be working on the frontline, and the College will be here for you with whatever support we can provide. As clinicians and providers of care, it will stretch us to the limit, but we will come through.

Our absolute priority is to protect and inform you during this period. Some of this will be about making the case across government to ensure you and your colleagues feel as safe and protected as possible, whether that’s testing, PPE or equipping you with the right guidance and information. There are also major questions which need answers, such as how to support our trainees through a period of great uncertainty – something my colleague David Evans wrote about on Thursday

Making sure the needs of children and young people are not overlooked is one of my key roles during this pandemic. Young patients are not affected to the same extent as adults, thankfully, but there are vulnerable groups – and children’s services will run in new ways in the coming months. The good news is that government and the NHS in all countries are awake to this challenge and we have talked positively with the CMO for England (who is working with all the UK CMOs) about what we need to do. 

Last week we published fresh guidance on COVID-19 and paediatric services, and this is already being updated. We have a new wave of guidance on the way, including support for vulnerable children and young people. We will do this throughout the current crisis, working with others, including the NHS. It’s also important that we support colleagues in other colleges – I think our wider profession will work together in ways that might have been unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

At a policy level we are seeing an intensification of the command and control model within the NHS. We will also see the introduction of emergency powers by the UK government to tackle the spread of the infection. Research is emerging from countries that experienced peaks earlier, which is vital in helping us respond. We want to make sure we can support you with the best published research, and this is an area the College will prioritise.

We will work with all our paediatric colleagues no matter where they are, to advocate for continuing attention to families, children and infants

I also want to send a message of solidarity to our international members. There is no corner of the globe that is unaffected by COVID-19. Our members, as well as our sister paediatric professional bodies, right around the world are confronting many of the same urgent questions we face in the UK – how to ensure the optimal level of clinical care, balanced with the need to maximise community action to prevent, contain and suppress the virus. We have seen in other epidemics how attention to paediatric care and the welfare of children can be adversely affected, as systems understandably focus on the frontline. We will work with all our paediatric colleagues no matter where they are, to advocate for continuing attention to families, children and infants.

Like other organisations, we’re now working remotely. This week, we closed our offices across the UK and moved to virtual working.  In my previous messages, I mentioned that COVID-19 has inevitably meant us revisiting courses, events and exams. This has been a very disruptive period and I want to thank you for your patience and understanding in dealing with any cancellations.  We will try to give ample notice of any changes and please do continue to check our website for the latest information on how we are responding.

Please know that I and all College Officers and staff will do whatever we possibly can for you in the weeks and months ahead. Each of the Senior Officers is very much working on the ground in their service as well as keeping some time for the College, and I’m hugely lucky to have such a capable and supportive team.

We are doctors and healthcare workers, but we are also people with our own worries about childcare, elderly parents, and what our country will look like at the other end of this. There’s no doubt that the storm will be intense, but we will weather it together.

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.