For those of you who didn’t manage to attend the RCPCH Conference 2022 in Liverpool last week, we really missed you. I don’t think I can be accused of exaggeration when I say, it was an exceptional three days and personally I left Liverpool feeling energised, encouraged and very inspired. We opened and closed the event with some profoundly inspiring and insightful plenary sessions from the young people of RCPCH &Us. To see Eve, a teenager from Scotland with autism, standing on the stage describing what matters to her, alongside the Scottish Children’s Commissioner, was unforgettable! Her sheer bravery bowled me over. We are so fortunate as a College to have these incredible young people who volunteer to work with us.
Conference themes last week
From my perspective, the recurring themes that came through almost every plenary talk and several of the workshops too, were twofold – the impact of widening health inequalities on the families we work with, and the deeply worrying impact of racism not just on our workforce but on wider society too. The toxic mix of these two came through loud and strong in Dr Christine Ekechi’s talk on the impact of maternal inequality on child health with truly sobering data including the four-fold greater incidence of maternal mortality in black women compared to white women in the UK. Dr Habib Naqvi, director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, described how his team is addressing some of these issues head on and had us all sitting up in our seats as he talked about how the Apgar score is being reviewed currently. When I think how many times I’ve recorded a neonate’s Apgar score without hesitating to consider how the baby’s skin colour may be influencing my interpretation of neonatal adaptation… this work is long overdue.
Professor Joy Lawn never fails to fire up her audience. Her plenary presentation was a call to arms reminding us of the huge scale of neonatal morbidity and mortality globally. 140 million births a year is a sobering figure… and 30 million of those need hospital care. The need for an accelerated approach to delivering high quality newborn care is all of our challenge and she made the case for us to work ‘beyond our bubbles’ and to use data, new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines to work collaboratively globally to address the largest single cause of death across the life course.
A wonderful opportunity to connect
We worked hard at conference – but there was an infectious amount of fun and socialising too! Possibly the commonest exclamation I heard around me was “But you’re so much taller than I realised on Teams!” as two online friends met in person for the first time. Ash Patel’s Great Paediatric Bake-off was like a honey pot to bees in the Exhibition Area. The BAPIO dinner lived up to all my expectations with a wonderful performance by Arvind Shah and some impressive Bollywood dancing masterfully led by Anshoo Dhelaria. The Conference Dinner at the Rum Warehouse was a brilliant get together with Mike Linney not disappointing on the dance floor, having returned from Portugal to receive his Honorary Fellowship.
Proud to be a paediatrician
As I left Liverpool on Thursday evening, my strongest feeling about the conference was pride. I am so proud to be a paediatrician and I think we perhaps sometimes forget just what amazing colleagues we have and how privileged we are to do the work we do. Possibly the very best feedback we had about the conference was a tweet from a doctor who had left paediatric training and medicine three years ago, describing that she was reapplying for her licence to practice with the GMC on the back of the passion and dedication she had witnessed at the conference.
Take part in our inequalities survey!
The College continues to raise concerns about the impact the rising cost of living, poverty and health inequalities will have on children and young people. Just yesterday, I had an interview in the Sunday Times where I called on the UK Government to show leadership to tackle the crisis and set targets for improvement. We continue to raise the profile of these issues, and you can see a roundup of current work, recent articles and next steps on our website. I also need you to share your stories with us about what you are seeing on the ground. With the theme of health inequalities front and foremost in our minds, please can I remind you to complete our snapshot survey of your experience of the impact of poverty in your clinical practice before 8 July? It only takes three minutes!
And while conferences are still topical, the International Pediatric Association (IPA) and the Indian Academy of Pediatrics are hosting a very exciting conference in Gandhinagar, Gujarat next year – 19 to 23 February 2023. We’ll share the programme when it is finalised but you may want to consider joining in-person or remotely. IPA meetings are pretty phenomenal – and the UK (ie RCPCH) is co-hosting the 2025 conference – definitely something to look forward to!
Our junior doctor community
One final conference reflection – our trainees and the wider junior doctor community really do us proud as a specialty! Their contributions to numerous workshops, hosts of abstracts and the amazing wellbeing and social calendar made an enormous impact. I had the privilege of co-chairing a plenary session with Dennis Padi who is a ST6 trainee at Alder Hey. His grace, humour and sheer aplomb in front of a full auditorium was brilliant and he certainly calmed my nerves! We really rely on trainee involvement and support in our work at the College. Laura Kelly has been an outstanding Chair of the Trainee Oversight Committee. Her term is coming to an end and I shall really miss our regular catchups. She’s got a wise head on her shoulders and I’ve really valued sounding her out on a wide range of issues at our regular meetings. Laura has penned a lovely blog about her time leading the Committee – she’ll be a tough act to follow but the Committee Chair role is a wonderful opportunity for a trainee to take up and really help us shape the work we do at RCPCH. Voting for Laura’s successor opened on 28 June – and members eligible to vote (UK paediatric trainees currently on a CCT programme) will have the opportunity to do so by the closing date of 12 noon, 26 July. Spread the word!
With my best wishes to you all, and take care,
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