This is the last time you will need to suffer my fortnightly emails, as the wonderful Camilla Kingdon takes over as President on Monday next week. A ‘new and improved’ President awaits just beyond this blog.
It is strange to think I will no longer be in the role, which has occupied almost all my time and most of my thoughts for the last three years. But it will be a partly welcome strangeness; the Presidency is too all-encompassing a role to take on for more than three years. I’m not sure how those dictators do that ‘president-for-life’ thing - far too exhausting and not for me. I shall put my feet up, attempt to remember the cat’s name and where I left the mower three years ago, take some simple enjoyment in seeing patients and try to get used to not worrying about how the College should respond to the latest health service or political crisis.
I think it is customary for departing Presidents to carefully list and polish their achievements in office. That is not the case here; it’s the collective ‘us’ as a College that achieves things, not individuals. There are, however, some important things the College has achieved while (or despite!) having me as President that I think are worth reflecting on.
The pandemic has been an extraordinary time for all of us, and I think our College has stood out for its level-headed, science-based advocacy for children and young people.
The pandemic has been an extraordinary time for all of us, and I think our College has stood out for its level-headed, science-based advocacy for children and young people. I think it’s given us a new level of influence and respect – which we’ve always had, but where it now feels that our voice is being heard in new and different ways. Having over 2,000 of you sign our letter to the Prime Minister in just 24 hours had a clear influence on getting schools reopened in June last year, and was an extraordinary example of how effective our collective action can be when guided by our brilliant College team.
While it’s been difficult to watch the mounting ‘collateral damage’ of the pandemic on so many of our children, I think there is an emerging consensus that we must do more to make the UK a better place in which to grow up.
The health and wellbeing of children and young people has more attention now than at any time I can remember. This was growing before the pandemic - reflected in England with children and young people becoming a priority in the NHS Long Term Plan, which brought a welcome funding boost and increased focus on the needs of CYP. The pandemic accelerated this in many ways. While it’s been difficult to watch the mounting ‘collateral damage’ of the pandemic on so many of our children, I think there is an emerging consensus that we must do more to make the UK a better place in which to grow up. I’m pleased that we, with others, have helped make the case for a section of the population who are not always able to speak out for themselves.
Together, we’ve also made progress on some of the problems in recruitment and retention into paediatrics – something which I know affects all your working lives. The College’s latest recruitment campaign resulted in our most recent ST1 to ST3 fill-rate being over 95%, a big jump from just a few years ago. Camilla, when she was Vice President for Education and Professional Development, focused on improving retention and supporting wellbeing for members. I think there’s no doubt that twenty-first century Royal Colleges need to play a much greater role in supporting members in all aspects of their working lives.
I’m also proud of the progress we’ve made on examining issues of equality, diversity and inclusion across the College and making it core to everything that we do. We’ve got some way to go but I know this is something which Camilla has made a priority.
This has honestly been the best job I’ve ever had. Our College is that very rare thing - a truly happy, fulfilling and effective place to work - quite unlike most hospitals or universities I’ve worked in no matter how great most of the colleagues. I suspect it has a lot to do with the shared commitment to children and young people across members and staff, and the fact that all the paediatricians are volunteers. My problem post-presidency will be how to cope with not quite such high job satisfaction. First World problems!
It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that Camilla takes up the reins from Monday, 10 May.
One problem I don’t have is worrying about my successor. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that Camilla takes up the reins from Monday, 10 May. You know her for her exceptional humanity, wisdom and common sense and she will have the support of a wonderful group of College Officers and staff. The years to come will need that wisdom and humanity, as we fight to repair the damage done by the pandemic and do our part to tackle the deprivation and inequality experienced by so many of our children and young people. I’ll be cheering you all on from the back of the crowd.
Thanks for everything these last three years.
That’s all for now,
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