The last two weeks have been dominated by awful images and stories from Ukraine. I’ve received many messages and emails from so many paediatricians all wanting to know what avenues exist to make our collective horror heard as widely as possible – as well as practical offers of help. One of the few good things in this crisis is witnessing the extraordinary generosity of spirit and kindness displayed towards Ukrainians caught up in this nightmare. As a College, we have created a prominent area on our website devoted to the Ukrainian crisis and will be developing a range of resources to help. There are a variety of things we can do. We can make statements and show solidarity. We can work with specialty groups and other Royal Colleges to lobby government and represent the plight of children. We can help you get in touch with your MP, especially in making the case for the UK to play an equal role in taking refugees and those who are injured. Many of you will remember Lord Dubs speaking at our annual College conference a few years ago and describing his own experiences as a child fleeing what was then Czechoslovakia on the ‘kindertransport’. Like Lord Dubs, we all are committed to speaking up for the children fleeing Ukraine and seeking refuge.
The NHS is playing an active role too. You will be very keen to know how you can help and our new web resource, which is being continually updated, sets out where you can go to find out more across the four UK nations. It is important that we support the NHS and align any plans to avoid confusion. As this crisis evolves, there will be many opportunities to get involved. Sadly, this is likely to be an exercise that lasts for months not days. We will aim to keep you posted as much as possible. Specific requests for volunteers to work abroad will likely come through your trusts and health boards, but there will be several other ways of helping in the coming months.
Sajid Javid speech
On Tuesday, I attended the Royal College of Physicians to hear the UK Health and Social Care Secretary, The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, lay out his plans for reforming the NHS in England. Health spending currently accounts for 27% of public spending and this is set to rise to 44% by 2024 at the current rate. It is hard not to acknowledge that something has to change. He talked about digital technology and personalised health budgets. When he got to the importance of disease prevention I thought we had finally arrived at the moment he would mention children …… but I was disappointed! I heard no reference to children and young people and yet we all know that the most powerful and cost-effective way of preventing disease is by supporting children to live healthy lives and thus lay the foundation for healthy adulthood. Rest assured, we will find other ways of laying out the importance of investing in childhood and the vital need to focus on child health inequalities.
As distressing and disappointing as the news has been this week, there have been positives too! International Women’s Day on 8 March was a great moment to focus on the ongoing need to create a gender equal world. #BreakTheBias reminds us there is work to do and I loved reading our new Officer for Genomics, Dr Ngozi Edi-Osagie’s blog on her career in paediatrics. We are so fortunate to have so many trailblazing women in our specialty who are great role models – and men who go the extra mile to support and enable.
A wonderful return to face-to-face conferences
9 March was the St David’s Day Conference in Cardiff and I can assure you there was an incredible buzz at what was, for many of us, the first in person event of this kind in over two years. A superb programme of topics ranging from climate change to county lines to Long COVID, was rounded off by the Wales PAFTA awards for 2021. I felt honoured to be part of such a great day and found myself scribbling copious notes of all the inspiring ideas and innovations I heard about. These events are so important for sharing excellent practice and inspiring and enthusing each other.
The Cass Review
Yesterday, Dr Hilary Cass published an interim report in her role as Chair of the independent review, now more often known as ‘The Cass Review’. This is an independent review of Gender Identity Services for Children and Young People, commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement in Autumn 2020 to make recommendations about the services provided by the NHS to children and young people who are questioning their gender identity or experiencing gender incongruence. The College responded to the insights from the interim report and we await publication of the review’s final report and recommendations in due course.
A day of remembrance - #WithAllOurHearts
Today is the second anniversary of when the WHO declared a pandemic. It is a day to remember all those who have died around the world and for us, to reflect on health and social care staff who lost their lives. After such a devastating two years, we remember all healthcare professionals who died and also those who have lasting physical and psychological consequences of COVID-19.
These are sobering times. Let’s look out for each other please.
With my best wishes and take care
Dr Camilla Kingdon
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