COVID-19 - message from the President, 7 May

As we move to the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, we'll be looking at how we reset, restore and recover paediatric services, and considering what changes and innovations from the past weeks we can take into the future. Russell addresses members in this week's blog.

It’s now clear that we are past the peak of COVID-19 and we are moving quickly to the next phase. While the NHS has coped exceptionally well, the pandemic has caused an extraordinary amount of grief and sadness among families and communities across the UK. The loss of life has been devastating, but so too has the impact on people whose health and wellbeing have suffered as we created space to cope with COVID-19.

Children and young people seem to be coming into focus more this week, although this is a mixed blessing of course. They’ve fortunately been little affected by direct infection with COVID-19, with some sad and rare exceptions; the novel multisystem inflammatory syndrome has reminded us again that children can have unusual and rare responses to aetiological agents. However, children are deeply affected by the response to the pandemic – and I think there’s a dawning realisation this is a serious issue that will need a great deal of attention. The issue of how we might restart our children’s lives, particularly in terms of gradually reopening schools, is rising up the political agenda.

A major focus of our work in the weeks and months ahead will be resetting, restoring and recovering... services for children and young people

It will take time and new thinking to pick ourselves up from the acute phase of this crisis. The dedication of colleagues in working through the upheaval and very difficult circumstances has been admirable, and something that I won’t forget.  A major focus of our work in the weeks and months ahead will be resetting, restoring and recovering (we are calling this the Three Rs) services for children and young people, who have undoubtedly lost a lot in terms of education, support and core services. And support for our paediatric workforce will be a key element in our thinking.

How we move on from COVID-19 is going to be important and we’ll have to work very hard to assess the damage, rebuild our services and try and make up lost ground. In the months ahead we will begin to restart clinics, some children will likely go back to school and we will tentatively restart elective procedures. As with many things, it is much easier to stop than start afresh, and the College will focus intensely on these issues. 

I’ve also heard from many of you that there are some aspects of pre-COVID-19 life we should leave in the past. I agree that amid the stress and the hardship, it was incredible to see the level of transformation that happened in just a few short weeks. The culture of trusting clinicians and healthcare workers to make big service design decisions in response to patient need is something that we should be reluctant to let go of. I did my first video clinic this week - and it was extraordinary to have the family, a nurse specialist, a dietitian and myself working well together despite being miles away from each other. Some of this innovation of course is not ‘new’ but reflects changes we have wanted to make for many years but have been stymied by red tape and risk aversion. I’ll have more for you soon about what the next steps should be for paediatric services and how we might best balance the new and the old.

If there are things that have made your working life less frustrating, more rewarding, or simply more effective... get in touch

I also want to share an update about the Paediatrics 2040 project. In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 led to unprecedented changes in paediatric services. It altered ways of working, to the extent that lots of the theoretical futures we were exploring in this project have already been experienced. This has been remarkable and has certainly changed the focus of the project itself. 
 
The project work we have been doing up to this point remains important, and we still look forward to sharing it with you in early 2021. For now, we wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on what we have learnt from this unprecedented period in our lives. We’re encouraged by the pace and scale of change and are working to capture and share this learning in a short reflective report, which will help us all to plan for the future beyond COVID-19 and indeed the next few years.

I would love to hear from you about the changes and innovations from this period you’d most like to take into the future – in particular, new models of care or changes to your working life. If there are things that have made your working life less frustrating, more rewarding, or simply more effective – this is an excellent way to help us capture them and scale them up. You can get in touch with the team to share your thoughts via paediatrics2040@rcpch.ac.uk.

In positive news, the RECOVERY trial is now assessing all the available treatments for COVID-19 in adults, and from Monday, 11 May, it will be open to enrolling children and infants down to the day of birth. Enrolment of children in high quality research studies is of vital importance in order that they can receive safe and effective treatments; the RECOVERY study of multiple potential treatments is the largest of its kind in the world and will provide the strong evidence base that is needed to decide on the most effective interventions for those affected by COVID-19.

Finally, if you missed the recent trainee webinar, you can watch the recording (member log in required)

A long update, but hopefully you find these useful. That’s all for now. Stay well and I hope you get some rest over the bank holiday weekend.

Russell


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