Having grown up in South Africa I can honestly say that until last Friday I had not the slightest idea what the difference between a Flying Scotsman and a Dashing White Sergeant was! Thankfully that is no longer the case following my attendance at the 100th birthday celebration of the Scottish Paediatric Society (SPS) in Glasgow. I joined a large gathering of present and past members of the SPS at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow to reflect on ‘Paediatrics Past and Present’.
The programme began with a series of reflective talks focusing on achievements and changes in care and it was wonderful to see many retired members of the RCPCH and SPS who have made huge contributions in all these fields over a long time in Scotland. The day ended with a terrific conversation with two young people about how to improve our styles of communication with our young patients and finally a hugely anticipated talk by Professor Sir Harry Burns. His talk on the social determinants of health was especially sobering on a cold and wet November evening, but a very fitting way to end the programme.
In traditional style, the conference delegates then decamped to the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow for a dinner and ceilidh. I may have been entirely ignorant of the different dances but that was no barrier to taking part. My Scottish hosts were very patient and forgiving and – oh my goodness, did we bring the centenary celebrations to an end in style! Some of the very best dancers were some of our retired members and I was just thrilled at what a wonderful way this was to celebrate coming together.
Recognising the challenge
I realise that the majority of you are not in a celebratory mood as the pressures we are all under feel almost overwhelming. My sense is that we all recognise the importance of stopping every now and again to spend some time learning together and having fun. However, I also know that this can feel rather trivial when the number of empty beds in wards and critical care can often be counted on a single hand over a huge geography. We’re updating our College resources for services facing extreme pressure this winter, so please take a look.
I had an opportunity to attend a breakfast roundtable with NHS England this week and it was a good opportunity to make the point that there is simply not enough capacity in both acute and community services for the 12.7 million children and young people the NHS serves. It was also a very good chance to explain how we cannot think that the health of all children is the responsibility of the NHS. We must collaborate widely with local government, public health, education, third sector and much more, to yield the kinds of long-term benefits we desperately need for the health and wellbeing of children.
Introducing our new Officer for Health Services
On a more positive note, I’m delighted to introduce our newly appointed Officer for Health Services to the College. Dr Ronny Cheung has taken up this new role to lead our health services agenda and I’m eager to receive his sage advice on how we begin to approach some of these wicked problems during such a critical point in how the NHS is organised across the UK. We are thrilled to have him on board.
I don’t like ending on a down beat note, but I wanted to finish by reflecting on the sad news of the passing of Professor Henry Halliday and Dame Clare Marx. Professor Halliday is the first and only Irish recipient of the College’s James Spence medal which is our highest honour to a paediatrician for their advancement of knowledge and understanding in paediatrics and child health. His contributions to the practice of evidence-based medicine have been enormous and there is a real sense of loss at the passing of an esteemed colleague. Equally so, Dame Clare was the first woman President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Chair of the General Medical Council. She has left a significant legacy of leadership underpinned by kindness and compassion, and work to improve standards of surgical care. I take inspiration from each of these colleagues as I prepare for this next period of supporting colleagues through what will likely be a difficult winter. My thoughts are with their families.
For members who may not have had the chance to read the winter edition of Milestones last month, the College &Us network of children, young people and families took over this season’s editorial which published on World Children’s Day. I hope you enjoy this issue and I wanted to reiterate my words from there - we are stronger together and we can achieve remarkable things for child health and for our community of paediatricians by doing so.
With my very best wishes to you all – and please take care,
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