Playing our part on climate change and beyond - President's blog

Camilla reflects on the climate emergency, what the budget means for child health, breaking the cycle of deprivation and how a cycle ride showed the best of paediatrics.

Newcastle to Carlisle!

I felt incredibly proud to be a paediatrician last Friday, 29 October! I joined a group of over 40 paediatric healthcare professionals to cycle from Newcastle to Carlisle, as part of the Ride for their Lives cycle ride from London to Glasgow. This 530-mile ride was organised and led by Mark Hayden from Great Ormond Street Hospital with the purpose of raising awareness of the impact of air pollution on child health.

Camilla and other members on their cycle ride to Glasgow!

There was a hard-core group who did the entire ride, which is an amazing achievement. However, every single person taking part was focussed on raising awareness about the impact of climate change. The camaraderie and shared purpose, despite some truly awful weather at times, was very inspiring and I genuinely felt a buzz and excitement amongst colleagues that I haven’t experienced since before the pandemic took away so many of our group activities.

despite all our difficulties and the intensity of work, when the chips are down, we are a community of caring and supportive people

There were the cycling fanatics clad in Lycra who led the pack and looked relaxed and showered by the time some of us got to Carlisle in the darkness! And then there were those who were pushing themselves out of their comfort zones to take part in something that really mattered to them. Every single person was supportive and kind. Every single person made sure no one was left behind and thought about how they could help the person who was struggling – and we had plenty of fun too! I left Carlisle feeling that, despite all our difficulties and the intensity of work, when the chips are down, we are a community of caring and supportive people, who can be relied on.  

COP26 – we can all play our part

Ride for their Lives was a collective effort to show how serious we are about the climate emergency in the lead up to COP26. As a College, we are determined to play our part in this crisis and specifically flag up the impact on children around the globe. Our Climate Change Working Group has been working at pace to develop resources and collate the data that is available. A small group of us will be attending the Global Conference on Health and Climate Change organised by the WHO in Glasgow on 6 November to learn more about climate justice and the green recovery from the pandemic.

Every one of us has a responsibility here – to consider personally what our response is, and also professionally, in terms of educating ourselves so we can advocate effectively and consider the impact of poor air quality and other consequences of climate changes on the lives of the patients we care for.

I hope you will look at the College resources on climate change, and feel inspired to play your part. If you are keen to learn more, please join us online on Friday, 26 November for our own climate change event with an inspiring line-up of speakers – I’d love to see you there.

The UK Budget and child health

Last week we scoured the Budget to find out what policy announcements are likely to impact on child health. Spending on funding initiatives spanning health and education largely relate to England, as these areas are devolved. However, if overall spend amounts to an increase, there would be consequential increases in the block grants that fund spending decisions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on these and other areas, which we will continue to monitor.

there were a few crumbs for children’s health, but not enough – and very little about how the UK will meet its climate change targets

For England, disappointingly, we had to look really hard to find anything that signified a real desire to address child health inequalities. There were a few initiatives that will receive additional funding - £500 million over the next three years to support ‘Start for Life’ and family help services, and £200 million a year for continuation of the holiday activities and food programmes to help provide healthy meals for disadvantaged children in school holidays. Funding for Health Education England and investment in developing the healthcare workforce was left unclear. Unexpectedly, the Chancellor also announced that overseas aid spending will hopefully return to 0.7% in 2024/25 which is an issue we have strongly lobbied for over the last months. So, there were a few crumbs for children’s health, but not enough – and very little about how the UK will meet its climate change targets. For more information, please read our Insight piece about the UK Budget and the child health implications

The reason why the Budget is important to child health really hit home to me when I read a thought-provoking paper in the Lancet this week looking at the link between ethnicity, social deprivation and pregnancy outcome in England. The authors make a plea for health professionals and politicians to protect women and their babies through a combination of population approaches and targeting high-risk groups, addressing both wider determinants of health (eg poverty and structural racism) and specific risk factors (eg maternal smoking). The risk if we don’t, is that the relentless cycle of deprivation that we see so much of in our clinical practice, will endlessly repeat itself through future generations.

ST1 recruitment open

Before I sign off, I wanted to let you know that the ST1 recruitment window has just opened and I hope we'll see some fantastic doctors applying for paediatrics. Please do take the time to talk about what inspired you to choose paediatrics, or if you can, offer taster days or shadowing experiences to anyone who may not have had a paediatric placement. You can even join in on social media using #ChoosePaediatrics (and see some rather wonderful scrubs)!

I hope that you all have a chance to savour some of the beautiful autumn scenes over the next few days, with my best wishes and take care.


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