Learning together - President's blog

Camilla shares an update from a fantastic recent trip to Northern Ireland, including attending the Royal College of General Practitioners’ conference which reinforced the importance of continuing to learn together. There is also an inspiring story from one of our RCPCH Global programmes and an update on our continued work on migrant health.
Dr Camilla Kingdon, RCPCH President

When I visited Belfast in January this year, I came back with so many ideas, inspired by what I had seen and the colleagues I had met. So, you can imagine how much I was looking forward to returning to Northern Ireland last week with Cathryn Chadwick, our Vice President for Training and Assessment, and Rob Okunnu, our College CEO. We had a fantastic two-day trip and a particular highlight was a trip to Armagh to attend the Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) conference focussing on child health in primary care.

Imagine a packed room of 140 keen GPs and paediatricians all spending the day in a series of lectures, workshops and debates on a whole range of child health topics. The buzz was terrific, and I loved the lunchtime debate on the pros and cons of making some child health training mandatory for all GP trainees.

The importance of the occasion and the priority of learning together for both paediatricians and GPs were underscored by the fact that the Chair of RCGP for Northern Ireland, Dr Ursula Mason, attended the event, as did Professor Alan Smyth, Dean of the Medical School at Queens University Belfast (and fellow paediatrician). Senior medical leaders joining an event like this is so key because it impresses and endorses the importance of us learning to work together and finding all possible ways of improving the capacity and capability in primary care to confidently manage paediatric problems.

I am convinced this is the way forwards and I hope we will see much more of this kind of initiative across all four nations.

Winter viruses

It’s a busy winter, isn’t it? Viruses are doing their usual rounds and RSV is most definitely dominating with current rates higher than this time last year. There is a tiny hint that the rate of rise in incidence is slowing slightly, so let’s hope we’ve reached the annual peak.

Measles rates are stable but there are enough cases, especially in London, for us to not be complacent. We have been active in trying to raise awareness about measles and I am pleased that this has received a good amount of media coverage highlighting our poster and in the press.

Migrant health

I have mentioned our concerns about migrant health many times before. We continue to work with other organisations, such as the British Dental Association and British Association of Social Workers in particular, speaking out about the use of x-rays and MRI scans for age assessment in children and young people.

Last week we wrote again to the Home Secretary to urge him to reconsider these practices which we consider to be not just un-evidence based, but unethical. Many of these children have already faced unimaginable trauma and it is unconscionable to think that these practices in the UK are potentially contributing to further trauma.

Elsewhere, we have also responded to a troubling report from the Children's Commissioner which lays bare the lack of appropriate healthcare and safeguarding support for children living in hotel accommodation.

President elections reminder – make your voice heard

Don't forget to #RCPCHVote for your next College President by midday on Monday 11 December. All members who are eligible to vote will have received an email from CIVICA Election Services with instructions. Remember, this is your opportunity to make your voice heard and also the first time that international members can vote, so please make it count!

Taking inspiration from RCPCH Global

It’s easy, when we are in the depths of our Northern Hemisphere winter, to focus only on our problems and pressures. So, let me lift your spirits with a story from one of our inspiring global programmes in Sierra Leone.

Since the end of the civil war in 2002, Sierra Leone has struggled with some of the highest rates of maternal and child mortality in the world. Volatile international donor interest, along with outbreaks of Ebola and COVID-19, have compounded the fundamental fragility of the country’s health care system.

Since 2016, the College has worked with clinical colleagues, with WHO and UNICEF, and with the Government’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation to build and reinforce basic paediatric care quality. Between 2017 and 2022, paediatric mortality across the whole network of government hospitals fell by almost 40% which was a superb result.

However, in 2021-22 the programme was hit by swingeing cuts to the UK aid budget. Unwilling to abandon years of accrued local trust and operational intelligence, we have stayed working alongside our partners as much as our very limited resources allow. I’m thrilled to share that as a result of Sierra Leone establishing a brand-new Child Health Division, for the first time in its history there is now a Child Survival Action Plan. This gives the work a truly awe-inspiring opportunity.

The College remains committed to working alongside local clinicians as well as policy makers to help translate this national imperative to reduce avoidable child deaths in one of the most challenging operating environments in the world. So, a huge challenge and we will keep you updated as things progress.

Health Day at COP28

Finally, this Sunday, delegates in Dubai will gather for COP28’s first ever Health Day. Let’s watch proceedings carefully and we will of course continue our advocacy on the impact of climate change on child health.

Just last week we joined with 40 other organisations calling on all political parties to focus on improving air quality and the importance of a Clean Air Act, as well as our letter to COP28 Presidency highlighting the need for reduction in fossil fuels, action on air quality and a reminder of the urgency to place children at the forefront of this first COP28 Health Day.

I am also very excited that the College will be hosting a roundtable in Westminster on 12 December to bring together a number of MPs to discuss the intersection of health inequalities with climate change. I’ll report back to you on how this goes.

With my best wishes – and take care,

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