Finding the reasons to be cheerful - President's blog

Through downbeat days and cold, dark cycle rides, Camilla tells us three things that are keeping her spirits up.

I like to complain about my cycle ride to and from work! The trip home always seems longer and the stretch up Larkhall Rise, invariably into a strong south westerly, is often a source of grief and angst! I try and use distraction tactics and this week I found myself thinking of the song 'Reasons to be Cheerful 123'. It had been a particularly downbeat day and it was cold and dark - so the discipline of thinking of three reasons to be cheerful was definitely a good ploy for taking my mind off the hill.  

Reason number 1

This week I joined members of the College Health Policy team in welcoming and meeting Doug Simkiss, community paediatrician in Birmingham and the new Chair of the British Association for Community Child Health (BACCH). I love meeting inspiring people and I came away from my meeting with Doug with my head spinning after he shared some of his ideas and plans. Under Doug’s leadership, BACCH is going to embed an ambition to have a philosophy of care rooted in communities and invest in strengthening the focus on the relationship between children and young people and their families, schools, public health and so on. I love this idea and it is one of my chief learning points from the pandemic, that children need their communities to thrive and when you separate them from school and opportunities to exercise, play, socialise and so on, real problems can develop. Doug has lots of other plans including developing a research strategy and so the future is bright for BACCH and I am really looking forward to collaborating and supporting this vital part of our child health workforce.

Reason number 2

Zeshan Qureshi, Hugh Bishop and colleagues published their important Opinion in the BMJ this week, entitled Addressing racist parents in a paediatric setting: the nuance of zero tolerance policies. Both Zeshan and Hugh are members of the RCPCH Equality Diversity and Inclusion member reference group and their BMJ piece gives voice to a uniquely paediatric problem – how do we deal with parents who are racist, when their child is our patient? Anecdotally, many ethnic minority doctors report racist behaviour by patients and data supports the anecdote that this is sadly very common. What is less frequently reported or discussed, is the uncomfortable scenario of healthcare professionals treating a child and having to deal with racist parents. I applaud the authors of this paper and welcome their suggested approach to managing this scenario. Zero tolerance towards racism is not up for debate. How to manage the complexities of balancing the rights of staff, the parents and fundamentally the safety of the child, is much more difficult to navigate. I encourage all paediatricians to read this paper and consider how they might respond.

Reason number 3

Despite all the fear about Omicron, it’s Christmas time and school holidays. Most of us will get some time off to spend with friends and family and feel perfectly justified to eat way too much! When the days are so short, it’s definitely permissible to binge on yet another showing of 'Love Actually’ and more mince pies! So let’s enjoy these precious moments and make no excuse for relaxing and pulling crackers, telling silly jokes and feeling sentimental about our children’s excitement (mine are 21 and 19 and are still ridiculously thrilled by Christmas!). It’s so important to make the most of any break over Christmas and New Year, so please invest in this time. We have huge challenges ahead as the numbers of Omicron cases increase. The impact on the NHS remains uncertain and preparations are on the basis of “hope for the best, plan for the worst”. As a College, we will continue to argue the case for schools to remain open and the restart of term in January to be unaltered. Our message is clear – school closures should only be contemplated as a last resort. We will raise the importance of protecting community child health services in the face of the Omicron wave. And above all, we will use every opportunity to describe the sustained pressure our whole workforce has been under for so many months and that this is not sustainable.

As Omicron is such a clear and present danger currently and because we do not yet understand its full impact on any age group, please can I remind you of our Spotting the Sick Child resources, as well as the PIMS-TS guidance and information for families. Please feel free to share these with colleagues.    

As this is my final message for 2021, please let me take this opportunity to thank you for your support and encouragement since stepping into the President role in May. So many kind messages and small acts of kindness have made my first eight months so much easier – and even enjoyable! I am truly grateful. I wish you all a happy Christmas and whatever 2022 holds for us, let’s look out for each other.

With warmest regards.

PS – If you are eligible to vote and haven’t voted yet for the next Vice President for Health Policy and Vice President for Science and Research – don’t delay! Voting closes at midday on Monday 20 December.

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