Helping children and their families to be heard - a consultant's experience as RCPCH Ambassador

Dr Charmari Wijemanne, Consultant in Community Child Health, tells us what prompted her to apply as RCPCH Ambassador for South East London, and how the role offers an opportunity to amplify the voices of children and their families to improve service design.
RCPCH Ambassador Dr Charmari Wijemanne

Why did you want to become an RCPCH Ambassador?

I am a community paediatrician in an area with deprivation, generational trauma and violence. And almost every child I see has had at least one adverse childhood experience, which we know will have an impact on their health and development long term.

Although I could see children and make diagnoses, I realised that - for there to be lasting change in their lives - their health needs could not be looked at in isolation, but rather in the context of their family and community. Around this time I saw the role of RCPCH Ambassador advertised and thought: this could be my opportunity to advocate for integrated care for children!

As an Ambassador what does your role involve?

The role is very flexible and can be adapted according to the needs of your area. I was introduced by the RCPCH Ambassador team to the Children and Young People’s project manager for the Integrated Care System (ICS), and over the last 12 months formed a relationship where I provide advice on health innovations and service pathways, signpost to other professionals and RCPCH guidance and attend network meetings.

What are some benefits of being an RCPCH Ambassador?

I have a better understanding of the ICS, the pathways for commissioning and the complexity involved. I believe I've been able to advocate for children and their families by providing a health perspective – for example, to emphasise the importance of investing in early diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders to prevent mental health complications – and ensuring their voices are heard when services are planned.

It has also been a wonderful opportunity to meet with inspiring multidisciplinary professionals across the ICS. 

What advice would you give to someone considering to apply for this role?

I would advise taking time to form relationships, to listen and understand that change is slow but starts by building trust. Although everyone has different agendas, priorities and pressures, keeping the health and wellbeing of the child at the centre will help you to find common ground.

It is rewarding and privilege to be able to advocate for children and their families.

If you an interested in becoming an RCPCH Ambassador find out more and how to apply here.