Do you ever have a quick conversation with a colleague in the corridor at work that leaves you thinking and pondering for the rest of the day?
I love those moments and I recently had one when I bumped into a really inspiring trainee. We found ourselves talking about how easy it is to feel helpless about the enormity of the health inequalities we see around us in our clinical practices and how difficult it can be to believe that you can make a difference. She then described going to a fascinating place in the City of London called the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice. Here, a Victorian artist George Watts designed a wall of memorial plaques which each commemorate ordinary people who have shown heroic self-sacrifice, saving others at the cost of their own lives. This sounds very dramatic but his central philosophy was: “The material prosperity of a nation is not an abiding possession; the deeds of its people are.”
I think Watts’ words hold true for us in the 21st century. Each of us can play a role in helping others and even doing something small can make a difference. As we face the prospect of eye watering rises in energy bills and other cost rises, we know the pressure so many families are going to be under. As a College, we have responded to the UK Government’s publication of the White Paper on Levelling Up and as individual paediatricians let’s never forget that each of us really can play a role – because, as Watts said, deeds matter.
Tackling the backlog in elective care
The scale of the challenges facing the NHS do not need describing here as I am certain all our members know too well what a difficult future we are facing. The pandemic has been a major setback but it’s also true that many targets were slipping before COVID-19 reared its ugly head.
Tackling elective recovery cannot happen in isolation. We need our urgent and emergency care pathways to be working as efficiently as possible too, in order that elective work can tackle the backlogs. It is also important to remember that elective work is not just surgery. We have enormous waiting lists for outpatient assessments particularly in community child health, access to therapies and much more.
The much-awaited Recovery Plan for England was published on Tuesday, 8 February and it was extremely frustrating to find only the scantest mention of children. I responded to its publication, and needless to say, we will redouble our efforts to highlight the 300,000 children and young people waiting for NHS treatment, as well as the need for a fully funded workforce strategy to tackle these demands.
Standing in solidarity with Myanmar colleagues
On Tuesday 1 February, we proudly joined THET (the Tropical Health and Education Trust) along with various other Royal Colleges, in lighting up our College building in red as a mark of solidarity and remembrance for health workers who have risked and even lost their lives to provide care in Myanmar over the past year. Health workers have been targeted by the military, making Myanmar now one of the deadliest countries in the world to be a health worker.
We took this opportunity to stand in solidarity with our RCPCH members living and working there, and those who have had to flee.
Our Climate Change Action Plan
As a College we have been really proud of the work we’ve started on tackling climate change. Words and great aspirations, however, are not going to be enough and so the launch of our Climate Change Action Plan at the end of January was an important moment.
We are making ambitious plans and we expect to be held to account for these. Some plans are already in progress and should be reasonably easy to achieve. Other actions are going to be tough and will take time. Nevertheless, we are committed to doing this work and really want all our members to play their part too. Our ambitions stretch from our College building and an aspiration to be a net zero organisation by 2040, to developing educational resources for our members, to advocating for children and young people by putting RCPCH at the forefront of promoting sustainability and taking action within healthcare.
We cannot do this without your help and so please look out for opportunities to get involved and to play your part in this crucial endeavour.
Join our genomics webinar
On Thursday 3 March we will be hosting a webinar [event has now taken place] with Genomics England on whole genome sequencing for newborns. The event is an opportunity to hear more from Genomics England’s Chief Medical Officer about the Newborn Genomes Programme, and it is an opportunity to explore the benefits, challenges, and practicalities of offering whole genome sequencing to all newborns to accelerate diagnosis and access to treatments for rare genetic conditions.
Leading paediatricians in this field will offer their reflections, and we will have lots of time for questions and discussion.
Seeking a Quality Improvement Fellow
I am delighted that an outstanding opportunity to work for the College as a part-time Quality Improvement Fellow is currently open for applications [applications now closed]. This exciting new post has been designed to work on two national improvement projects and will allow the postholder to develop invaluable QI and patient participation and co-production skills. Please take a look at the job description. It is suitable for any stage of career and the closing date is 15 February – so don’t delay! Exciting times!
Submission date for RCPCH Conference abstracts closes soon
Lastly, if you’ve not had a chance yet, do submit your abstract for the College’s Annual Conference by Thursday 17 February [submissions now closed]. There’s still time and more information about submitting an abstract is available on the College website. We are also looking for fantastic examples of children and young people getting involved in making a difference to child health across the UK so that we can share some of them at RCPCH Conference 2022. [submissions now closed].
With my best wishes, and take care,
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