I had a particularly frustrating start to this week, not helped by arriving at work freezing cold and wet after a miserable cycle commute in the dark gloom of a Monday morning. I was almost relieved when a colleague reminded me that the third Monday of January is officially ‘Blue Monday’. I felt better knowing I wasn’t the only one feeling down in the dumps!
I had no good reason to feel miserable because I ended last week on a high after a fantastic trip to Northern Ireland with Mike McKean, RCPCH Vice President for Policy. We were warmly hosted by our Officer for Ireland, Ray Nethercott. Ray took us to meet paediatricians, nurses and service managers at both Craigavon Hospital, part of the Southern Trust, and the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. We also had the opportunity to meet with the Permanent Secretary for Health at Stormont to make the case for funding a more ambitious programme of work to support children’s health and the child health workforce.
Meeting our Northern Irish paediatric colleagues was the most interesting and invigorating part for me. There is no doubt that Northern Ireland face enormous and seemingly intractable problems. Recruitment is especially difficult and almost all the rotas I heard about fell short of the safe staffing standards RCPCH encourage. Nevertheless, I met colleagues who are determined to innovate and promote excellence and aren’t waiting for permission to do it – they are just getting on and forging ahead, supported by some very inspiring and insightful health service managers.
At Craigavon Hospital, one general paediatrician has forged a relationship with three GP practices, and together they are piloting a fantastic integrated primary/secondary care model of working. CAMHS is properly embedded in the general paediatric service, and they have just created the first CAMHS six month training post for paediatric trainees.
Palliative care for children has always been problematic in that part of the world so one of the paediatricians has set up a network of palliative care supported by Together for Short Lives. By his own acknowledgement there is still a lot of work to do, but he’s started the journey and is developing the partnerships. The ED team at the Children’s Hospital described how their typical footfall of around 120 attendances daily had risen to over 220 a day throughout several weeks at the end of last year. Their lovely compact department has literally been bursting at the seams and despite this their team of nurses and doctors have pulled together to create overflow waiting areas, doing their best in exceptionally trying times.
I came away from Northern Ireland humbled by their tenacity and resilience. I saw with my own eyes what people can achieve despite barriers and adversity when they have a common goal of wanting to improve the health and wellbeing of children. There is no doubt that we cannot expect healthcare workers to run on goodwill and altruism in the long term. However, I saw how small innovations can make a difference and when colleagues pull together and support each other, it’s amazing what can be achieved. Get in touch with our team if you want to learn more from our colleagues in Northern Ireland: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abstract deadline looming…
A quick reminder to all colleagues that abstract submissions for our annual conference closes in early February. This is great opportunity to share your work with a wide range of paediatricians and receive feedback from your peers. If accepted, your work will also be cited on the Archives of Disease and Childhood online!
Strengthening our volunteer programme
My trip made me think about the thousands of paediatricians who volunteer for the College in a whole range of important activities. We do not take this for granted and remain incredibly grateful to every person. We have started an important piece of work looking at the experience of volunteering at RCPCH and then thinking about how we can enhance it. You will hear more about this but please respond to any requests for feedback as we appreciate your thoughts.
There are now a large number of published dates for industrial action until the end of February across a number of professional groups in the NHS, and we have updated our online resources to reflect this. With the education sector also taking industrial action, we recognise how difficult this will be for parents and the impact on already stretched rotas.
Finally – some excellent news! My predecessor, Russell Viner, has just been appointed to a key role in the Department for Education as their Chief Scientific Advisor. I am delighted by this news and really looking forward to having a paediatrician at the heart of the education sector – an acknowledgement of the crucial link between health and education in children’s overall wellbeing. Congratulations to Russell!
With my best wishes to you all – and take care.
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