My goals as I begin my RCPCH presidency - President's blog

In his first blog as RCPCH President, Professor Steve Turner outlines his priorities for the College and notes recent developments in the world of child health and paediatrics, including the Cass Review, a consultation from the GMC, your opportunity to vote for College Registrar and updates to our calls for diplomatic action in the Middle East.
Professor Steve Turner

I am delighted to be writing my first blog, and especially delighted that you are reading it. Since the President election result was announced last December, I have had a constant stream of congratulations from across the UK and internationally, and I am very grateful for your messages of support and best wishes. I am a month into post now, and the handover seems to have gone well. The credit for this smooth transition goes to the cracking team of senior officers, trustees and staff I am fortunate to be a part of.

It is very strange not having Camilla around, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for all that she did as President, including the handing over of Presidential reins. The post-conference feeling of positivity and wellbeing still lingers but every honeymoon comes to an end and, as you will see later on, there are some important challenges facing our College today. Many readers won’t know me, so I will take this opportunity to introduce myself and also explain the direction that our College should aim for in order to be able to achieve its aims.  

I have been a general and respiratory paediatrician in Aberdeen since 2003. Previously I had qualified from the medical school on Tyneside in 1992 and completed paediatric training (and an MD) in centres across the North East of England and also three years in New Zealand and Australia. I was RCPCH Scottish Officer from 2016-2021 and became your College Registrar in 2021. At present I am both your President and Registrar (Pregistrar?). I have chaired the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties of Scotland since 2022.

On the academic side, I was awarded honorary professor status by the University of Aberdeen in 2017, am author on 200 papers and currently hold £1.5 million grants. My research interests include asthma, early origins of non-communicable diseases, health effects of exposure to products of tobacco combustion and pathways of care for acutely unwell children.  

I have three goals as your incoming President. The first is to keep business as usual going smoothly; we are the only organisation to create standards for paediatric training and practice, and the only voice for paediatricians across the UK. We are also a major voice for children and young people. We must keep this core activity finely tuned as it is our identity. My second goal is to continue to improve the offer we make to our members. We are a membership organisation. We can always listen more carefully to our members and help them along their career life course from medical student to beyond retirement.

The third and final goal is to champion the needs and rights, health and wellbeing of children and young people. Parents love, respect and value their children but I do not see governments and assemblies seeing children and young people through this parental lens; we need to carry on helping them get their sight corrected.

Cass review publication

On Wednesday 10 April, Dr Hilary Cass published her final report in her role as chair of the Independent Review of Gender Identity Services for Children. The report sets out recommendations for the services provided by the NHS to children and young people who are questioning their gender identity or experiencing gender incongruence or dysphoria. As a College, we will now take the time to digest these recommendations in order to understand the role of paediatricians in the proposed changes to the service. We will continue to engage with NHS England to ensure that a high-quality, safe and effective service is delivered to this group of children and young people, and that our members are provided with the right resources to play their role in this. You can read our initial response to the review in full.

Ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine

The desperate situation facing children, young people and health workers living in Israel and Palestine is still ongoing. I have written to the Secretary of State, Lord David Cameron, to call on him to use his diplomatic powers and influence to protect and support children and young people, health and aid workers, health facilities and infrastructure, as well as access to resources including food and water. Alongside this, we have also updated our resource page with further signposting. The College is constantly responding to a fluid situation and using its influence to improve the desperate situation for children affected.

The regulation of Physician Associates (PAs) and doctors  

As you may have seen, the College is undertaking a programme of work to understand the appropriate role of PAs in paediatrics: how this is working in practice; and to gather views and experiences of our members. Our member support page contains our current work and the outcomes of our recent snapshot survey, and more information will be coming in the next few weeks and months. You may have seen that the GMC has launched its eight week consultation on how it regulates PAs and Anaesthesia Associates, which closes on 20 May. As part of this the GMC has said “in addition, the consultation is also asking for views on draft principles to inform the content of fitness to practise decision-making guidance that will, from the end of this year, apply to doctors as well as to PAs and AAs”.

We will be working within our committee structure to put together a response and would encourage you to consider putting in one as well. You can view the consultation and respond.

Equal Protection

Last week saw the launch of the College’s report on Equal Protection, calling for legislative change to remove the “reasonable punishment” defence and to prohibit all physical punishment of children in England and Northern Ireland. The report made headlines across the media and an event was held in the House of Lords to further embed our calls for legislative change.

Use your voice and vote for your next Registrar!

Voting for your next College Registrar is open until 7 May at 12:00, noon. Eligible voting members will have received an email from Civica Election Services (CES) containing instructions on how to vote online, and a link to the ballot. You can find more information about your candidates and the important role of Registrar on our website.

Wishing you all my very best,

Steve 


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