Novel coronavirus and how the College is responding - message from your President

Russell has been speaking with quite a few members about COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. In this message, which has been emailed to all members, he outlines what we know and how the situation is affecting the RCPCH.

Update Russell emailed all members on 13 March - read his message

The situation continues to evolve – and we are told it may become clear in the next few weeks whether the epidemic is being contained or whether it will continue to spread and begin to significantly impact upon us in the UK over the spring and summer.

The risk to individuals remains low in the UK. However, we’re entering a new phase in terms of our preparedness and there are growing concerns that our ability to deliver care to children and young people could be affected. All your workplaces will be preparing emergency plans and setting up for a potential spike in cases over the spring and summer.

...the NHS and the UK generally are exceptionally good at emergency response and preparedness

Each of the medical royal colleges has a role to play and we’ve been coordinating over the last few weeks with the relevant agencies and leaders in the UK Government. The Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty and Keith Willett from NHS England are leading the public health response across the four nations. It’s worth saying both the NHS and the UK generally are exceptionally good at emergency response and preparedness. I know first-hand the extent of the work that has already taken place and it’s impressive to see the speed and efficiency with which plans have come together.

At College level we will work to feed in best practice advice in the context of infectious diseases and paediatric intensive care. As it stands the early evidence suggests children are less susceptible to the virus than adults, possible due to immature respiratory systems. This is good news, but it will be some time before we can say with confidence that this is the case. Even with low paediatric infection rates, it is possible there will be at least a small number of cases amongst children in the UK.

The College has convened a response group to help guide our decision making over the next few months. The group includes clinical experts and colleagues who lead operational planning and delivery at College level. We’ve already had to make difficult decisions. We cancelled exams in Hong Kong and Singapore on the advice of local teams. This was tough for the exam candidates and I know it’s caused quite a bit of disruption but we will be exploring how best to support candidates affected.

We’ve also postponed a long-planned conference in Singapore. It’s possible that we’ll have to make more of these decisions, and we’ll keep in touch with members as things develop.

That’s it for now but I’ll write again when we have a clearer picture of what the next few weeks will look like.

Please do come back regularly to our website to check for updates on latest advice from the UK Government.

This message was emailed to all RCPCH members who are opted in to receive College updates / professional updates. You can update your contact preferences at any time - log in to your RCPCH online account, go to My account | Your contact preferences, then make sure you've ticked 'College updates / professional updates'.