Looking out for one another - President's blog

In Camilla's penultimate message as President, she emphasises the importance of looking after ourselves and our colleagues, and highlights services available for support. There is also an update on Physician Associates and a reminder to add your voice to our RSV vaccination open letter.
Dr Camilla Kingdon, RCPCH President

I was delighted to attend a roundtable this week hosted by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, as part of the consultation for her survey of over 300,000 children and young people, called The Big Ambition. The roundtable I attended focused on health, but the headline findings make for sobering reading.

All the children she consulted felt they were ignored by politicians and believed they had no voice. Many described the impact of the cost of living crisis on their lives and worryingly many children believe that if you want healthcare in the UK you need to pay for it. Chillingly, only 40% of the girls she spoke to were happy with how they look.

I don’t think any of these findings will surprise you, sadly. I certainly came away from the event thinking about how we have to be optimistic about the future and we must work together to articulate and empower the voice of children and young people.

As a College, we are using every possible opportunity in this election year to remind all the political parties about the importance of investing in a healthy childhood and collaborating with partners across the entire children’s health and wellbeing ecosystem to emphasise the need for a Cabinet-level minister responsible for children, and an ambitious overarching children’s strategy for the UK.

Sign our letter urging UK Government to implement an RSV vaccination programme

You can play your role in influencing by joining us in signing an open letter to the UK Government asking them to implement a full RSV vaccination programme as quickly as possible.

The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) has recommended that a programme should be developed, and we are very clear that decisions need to be made at speed if this plan is to be operational in time for this winter 2024/25.

Rolling out an RSV vaccine to infants could result in 108,000 fewer GP consultations, 74,000 fewer A&E visits and 20,000 fewer hospitalisations solely in those under one year of age. Please consider signing our open letter to the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. I know how powerful the collective voice of our membership can be.

Physician Associates in Paediatrics

You will be aware that the role of Physician Associates is currently a very hot topic with a wide-ranging number of stories circulating on social media and in the press. There are relatively few PAs working in Paediatrics and our members have a range of views and experiences in relation to working with them.

Legislation for the regulation of PAs is now proceeding at pace and will be in place soon, enabling the GMC to officially regulate them. The College is gathering data and undertaking a longer programme of work to understand the experiences better, and we will work with other Colleges to influence and better define how these important members of our multiprofessional teams can best and most safely work.

Our web page about PAs has been updated to share the insights we’ve captured from you already, our current position and more information about our plans for this work. This week the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges also published some high level principles that doctors and healthcare teams should use to determine whether and how to integrate PAs into existing teams.

Whatever our thoughts and impressions may be about PAs, I am absolutely clear that we need to treat these colleagues with respect and kindness. We are facing huge workforce resource problems in this country and we need to look after all our team members.

Remembering a dedicated colleague

It was with the greatest sadness that we received the news last week of the tragic death of Professor Salah Ibrahim Ahmed.

Salah was the Professor of Paediatrics in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Khartoum, whilst making immeasurable contributions to child health in Sudan. He also spearheaded the roll out of the MRCPCH exams in Sudan and was an absolute stalwart when it came to all aspects of our exams in that country. He refused to leave Khartoum as the war escalated and was undertaking a ward round on the neonatal unit on Wednesday 28 February, when his hospital was shelled and he was killed.

He will be remembered as a dedicated and committed paediatrician who was known for his humbleness, warmth and supportive leadership.

Looking out for one another

I recognise that many people are finding life very stressful and that morale in many of our teams is low. We are now at the end of the winter, which is always a difficult time in paediatrics. I urge us all to be mindful that every one of us is feeling the pressure and some may be struggling more than others.

If ever there was a time for kindness, I think it is now. If you or one of your colleagues think they would benefit from some expert help, please rest assured that support is available. No one needs to suffer alone and it’s ok to not be ok.

The NHS Practitioner Health service is available for any doctors in England, Wales and Scotland, and Doctors in Distress is available to doctors in all four nations, running drop-in support groups for anyone who may want to discuss the emotional impact of their job. Let’s each take time to look out for one another.

With my best wishes – and please take care,

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