COVID-19 - message from the President, 5 June

It's been a sobering week, and in this message to members, Russell affirms the College's solidarity with BAME colleagues, particularly at this time. He also reports from yesterday's Council and AGM meetings where we discussed COVID-19 and our principles for recovery, among other important subjects.

Dear member,

I have been back at work this week following a week off; it’s certainly been a busy return!

College Council met yesterday and we also had the Annual General Meeting – all run virtually and the technology held up well. The College has undertaken a huge amount of work since the last Council meeting in January, when the world felt like a different place. We spent a good deal of time discussing COVID-19 and our plans for the Reset, Restore Recover: RCPCH principles for recovery.   Other aspects of College business were also touched on, such as climate change and environmental impact, which has been on our radar for some time. Council agreed to take forward further action in the College as part of our response to the climate and ecological emergency.

Utilising the impact of innovation is a key pillar of our [Paediatrics 2040] project...

Earlier in the week, there was a timely meeting of the Paediatrics 2040 project board. I wrote in my previous updates that there is a window of opportunity to shape how we plan and deliver healthcare to young people, and to harness innovation and learning that has developed over the previous weeks. Utilising the impact of innovation is a key pillar of our project and I’m pleased we will be publishing our learnings from COVID-19 later this month.  NHS England is also working to capture the beneficial clinical changes established in the current situation we find ourselves in. Naturally, we will put in a College response and although this is an England survey, we feel it’s also important to share our response with the NHS in the other UK nations.  But if you’re based in England, and you have examples of what you’ve seen working well that should be held on to, I would also encourage you to to share your thoughts too

It has also been a very sobering week. We saw the publication of the awaited Public Health England review of disparities in the risks and outcomes of COVID-19 this week. The review confirmed what we already knew; children and young people are less adversely affected by COVID-19. And it was extremely worrying that the review also confirmed that those from BAME communities face a higher risk. Devastatingly, we have seen this within our own paediatric community. You can read my statement in response to the review here.

... we recognise the experience of BAME communities, both in our field and in wider society. We are totally opposed to all forms of racism...

The College stands in solidarity with BAME colleagues particularly at this time. I know many of you are frightened, and have felt at risk at work in the current situation. NHSE has told trusts that staff who may be at greater risk of COVID-19, including those from BAME backgrounds, should be risk-assessed in their workplace and appropriate arrangements made – this needs to be consistently applied. This is not just for England, as we understand that there is risk assessment guidance in place in each of the four UK nations. Wherever you live in the UK, if you feel unsafe at work, I would urge you to talk to your manager and the BMA if you are a member of it. I also want to let you know that we are spending time as a College thinking about what more we can do to support our BAME colleagues – we want to do more, to encourage, support, listen and advocate. We will be saying more on this very soon.

The Public Health England review came in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the global response to this abhorrent act. It has provided a very stark moment for all of us to reflect on racism and I feel it extremely important to say that as a College, we recognise the experience of BAME communities, both in our field and in wider society. We are totally opposed to all forms of racism and it should have no place in our society.

I will pause my update here this week – but will remain vigilant on all the issues facing us at this time. In the meantime, take care, and for those of you that haven’t had a chance to take some leave, I’d encourage you to do that soon.


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