Let’s look out for each other - President's blog

As Omicron brings more uncertainty and strain, Camilla writes about what we can do to make a difference, alongside her reflections from the College’s first Climate Change conference.

I found it hard not to have a sense of déjà vu and resignation, I guess, when I learnt of the existence of Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant, last week. I thought about how fearful people will feel as they deal with the uncertainty of what this means. I thought about how precious NHS resources will need to be diverted to mount a robust defence against this new version of COVID-19. And, at a personal level, I thought how my planned trip to South Africa in January to see my family will have to be postponed and how sad that makes me feel.

However, we are all becoming season ticket holders on the COVID train and we’ve dealt with these setbacks before. We have much still to learn about this new variant and there is no point dealing with conjecture. What is clear though is that strengthening our defences is vital and the most critical step is increasing vaccine uptake – whether that’s the booster dose, or the primary course for those that haven’t had that. We all have a responsibility to make sure we have been boosted and to encourage our clinical teams to take up that offer too.

In this time of uncertainty, I would strongly encourage us all to make a point of asking our patients and their parents about their COVID-19 vaccination status. A simple question like “Have you had your COVID-19 jab? If you haven’t, have you got any questions I can help answer?” is a useful prompt and may be an opportunity to help a family make a decision. Current vaccination figures in children and young people under 18 years suggest that uptake has been slow in many areas. We have updated our COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs and so please use these to help in these discussions. Many paediatricians have asked about the decision with regards offering the COVID-19 vaccine to 5-11 year olds. The next steps are that both the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are yet to consider this issue and we await their decision.

I think vaccination is going to be the topic we will hear a lot about in the coming weeks. As vaccination rollout is significantly stepped up, colleagues in hospitals and primary care will find themselves under even greater pressure as staff and physical space is found to deliver the enhanced and now very complex vaccine campaign. This will make our already very stretched services feel even more pressurised. There is no point pretending – an already very busy winter is going to get busier, so let’s look out for each other and ourselves.

Our Climate Change commitments

Last Friday 26 November, the College held its first Climate Change online conference. Over five hours we were treated to an outstanding range of speakers and topics with energetic audience participation. I knew the afternoon was going to pack some punches when our first invited speaker, medical student Rhiannon Osborne, started talking. Rhiannon has particular interests in global public health and health inequalities and attended COP26. She presented her impressions of what was achieved at COP and how the future looked to her. She shared some of the sobering truths about how much still needs to be done to limit global warming but her forthright presentation certainly had me on the edge of my seat. The afternoon really was a treat and I would commend you to listen to our latest podcast which picks up the Climate Change theme. Our Treasurer, Liz Marder, interviewed Richard Smith, who chairs the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change about his experience at last month’s COP26 in Glasgow. Richard spoke passionately about the "tremendous camaraderie” among fellow doctors and medical students pushing for positive change – and what needs to come next. And, I chatted with Bernadette O’Hare, a consultant paediatrician who led on our new position statement about climate change’s impact on children’s health. With 99% of children around the world already exposed to environmental risk, Bernie gave some practical tips on what we paediatricians can do. Aside from the podcast, if you want to find out more about what COP26 means for child health, please read our latest Insight blog.

Time to vote

I hope you have all seen that voting is open for two Vice President positions. We have four excellent candidates standing, and if you’re eligible to vote I strongly urge you to cast your ballot (you should have received your voting slips and email link) – closing date is 20 December.

Thanks to our COVID-19 Book Club

Finally – some Christmas cheer! We are so lucky to have our wonderful RCPCH &Us group of children and young people. A group of them formed the COVID-19 Book Club and met regularly online to review evidence and give feedback about COVID-related public information. They have been a brilliant resource to us over the last 2 years. On November 30 we celebrated their successes with the COVID-19 Book Club Christmas Quiz and Bake Off! I have to confess my quiz score was embarrassing and my Christmas Bake Off production only came together because I had a secret weapon – my eldest daughter – helping covertly in the background! Nevertheless, I extend my hugest thanks to all our children and young people who have supported our work in 2021.

With my best wishes, and take care,


P.S. We’ve launched our latest RCPCH Progress+ Training Principle of the month – clinical reasoning skills. Please do check this out.

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