I find it all too easy to let my mind focus only on the many things that are wrong in the world. The news this week of the UK Government’s decision to push back on various climate ambitions from 2030 to 2035 is concerning. The publication last week of Breaking the Silence, a report into sexual misconduct in healthcare which focused specifically on sexual misconduct in the surgical workforce was utterly shocking and made for painful reading. The overall sense of winter looming and worries about how our already exhausted workforce will rally to meet the enormous needs of our patients. These are the topics occupying my mind and I know many of yours.
At times like these, it is so important to remember that amongst the worries, there are triumphs and reasons to be optimistic. Let me give you a flavour of some of the things that I am feeling proud and triumphant about!
Prevention is better than cure
Firstly, I’m excited to share with you our new report Securing our Healthy Future: Prevention is better than cure which makes the case for prioritising prevention of ill health in childhood, in order to ease pressure on the NHS and build a strong economy, so that all of our futures are secured. This argument is utterly self-evident to paediatricians but the message is not gaining traction with government where children and young people are being systematically deprioritised in the context of the health of the general population.
And so, we undertook this key piece of work with the Faculty of Public Health and which is endorsed by the 24 members of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, illustrating the consensus across the health sector that focusing on child health will help every group in society. You may want to use it in your local areas to make the case for investment in child health.
Furthering our advocacy on climate change
Secondly, despite UK Government stalling on progress, the College is taking climate change as seriously as ever. We have secured funding through a partnership we have developed with the Clean Air Fund and this means we want to appoint two clinical fellow posts at the College. These are brilliant opportunities for College members to apply for and I am very confident that these are going to be challenging but highly rewarding career opportunities.
And it doesn’t stop there! We have also taken the decision that our climate work is now such a big part of College work that we need an Officer for Climate Change. This volunteer role will take over leading the College’s climate work and provide clinical support and leadership of the two clinical fellows. Please have a think about these opportunities and making your application by 2 October 2023.
Where we go next with Martha’s Rule
Since last writing to you, there continues to be a fair bit of press coverage about the commitment from the Secretary of State, Steve Barclay, to implement Martha’s Rule in the NHS in England. In essence, this Rule will give patients and their families in England a mechanism in which to request a second opinion in the same hospital if they are concerned about their child or relative and feel their concerns are not being taken seriously.
We are committed to playing our role as a College to making this a meaningful improvement to patient safety which is accessible across all parts of the hospital system and to all families. In the spirit of wanting to work openly and transparently in partnership with families, it was really positive to read the recommendations of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics who have published their detailed review of disagreements in the care of critically ill children. The review makes a range of important recommendations and we will reflect on what our role as a College is, working with others to make progress in this crucial area.
Standing up for the rights of children
I have written several times this year about our concerns about the Illegal Migration Act and specifically the elements of the Act that impact children. Our consistent message is that children have the right to seek asylum in the UK and they should be treated with compassion and care. It was therefore very disappointing to learn that UK Government has confirmed that they will proceed with plans to use X-rays of teeth and hand/wrist bones, as well as MRI scans of knees and collar bones, as part of the Home Office age assessment process. We have a clear College position on age assessment and have persistently spoken out against these current unethical practices.
Sexual safety in healthcare
Having read the Breaking the Silence report, we should be under no illusions that sexual misconduct only happens in surgery. This is a problem across every specialty and potentially happens in any clinical environment. It was therefore timely to see that NHS England has published a Sexual Safety in Healthcare Charter which is a commitment to 10 actions to demonstrate a zero-tolerance approach to any of these behaviours.
The College is a signatory to this Charter and we are committed to tackling sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.
Hearing from members
And my final reason to be optimistic – on 14 November we are hosting our first ever Thrive Paediatrics listening event. We are determined to ensure that paediatricians have access to opportunities to develop long and happy careers. This free in-person event will give you a chance to understand more about wellbeing, kindness and compassion and to meet and interact with colleagues who are committed to improving working lives. Please consider booking study leave to attend this event, I am really looking forward to it!
With my best wishes – and take care,
PS - Please don’t forget to consider putting yourself forward for the next President and Treasurer roles at the College, or encouraging a colleague to think about these opportunities. The closing date for both roles is coming up on 4 October.
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