Supporting personal choice – President’s blog

Camilla's thoughts are with junior doctors and trainees this week, as they consider the BMA ballot. She also shares our call to support #EllasLaw and ask MPs to take action on clean air.
Dr Camilla Kingdon

There are some weeks when it is difficult to find much in the way of good news. I am certain I speak for us all when I express my horror and heartbreak at the unimaginable suffering of the families caught up in the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. There is the occasional small flicker of hope when a survivor is plucked from the rubble, but the scale of the disaster is extraordinary. Our thoughts and solidarity go to the relief workers, doctors and nurses working in the most testing of conditions and to all those injured and bereaved.

BMA ballot

I am also preoccupied this week thinking about junior doctors and trainees across the country as they cast their vote in the BMA ballot for strike action. This is a deeply personal decision, and each doctor will cast their vote weighing up a whole range of issues both personal and professional, but certainly not taking the decision lightly. What we all want is a healthy thriving medical workforce who can do what they know how to do best – provide the best possible care for children and young people across the UK. Whatever the outcome of the ballot, we are committed to supporting all our members across the whole career course. At the College we understand the enormous challenges faced by each of us and are committed to finding all potential avenues to improve the working lives of paediatricians. Please continue to signpost colleagues to our statement and updated resources on industrial action, and also our enhanced activity to focus on improving retention in our specialty and our workforce evidence information library to support workforce planning.  

Ella’s Law

Despite the worrying times, there are always things we can do, and this week is an important reminder of that. Ten years ago a nine year old girl in South London died from an exacerbation of severe asthma, ultimately shown to be caused by air pollution. The tragedy of the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah has become a landmark event that shines a bright light on the devastating impact of poor air quality on the health and wellbeing of us all, but disproportionately on children, especially from more deprived communities. Ella’s mother Rosamund has worked tirelessly to focus attention on the right for all of us to breathe clean air. Later this month, the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill is due to be read in the House of Commons which proposes establishing the basic human right to breathe clean air. If passed, this Bill known as #EllasLaw, will give real muscle to the drive to reduce the levels of harmful particles in the air we breathe to levels closer to WHO targets. I know that this topic matters to large numbers of paediatricians who see how poor air quality impacts on children. If you want to add your voice to supporting this Bill, I’d encourage you to ask your MP to take action on clean air.    

Group A Strep

There is now cautious optimism that we are through the worst of the exceptionally high number of Group A Strep cases we saw before Christmas. Winter is not over and so we need to remain alert but it is encouraging that the fall in incidence means there is enough confidence to retire the interim guidance issued by NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency in early December that meant the threshold to prescribe antibiotics was significantly lowered. Clinicians should now revert to the NICE guidance for the management of sore throats, with the fundamental principle being that the vast majority of sore throats are caused by viral infection. Please check the updated guidance which was published on 15 February.  

Recruitment and assessment  

I noticed some daffodils flowering on the common at the top of my road this morning which reminded me that spring isn’t far off and so I want to hold that note of optimism! Here’s some good news - our education and training teams have been very busy with our annual subspecialty recruitment round. This year we received over 520 applications for training posts across 16 paediatric subspecialties. At the start of this month, 372 interviews were conducted over 12 days and offers have been made to successful candidates this week - thank you to all the CSACs, interviewers, independent invigilators and College staff involved. It's very exciting to see a new generation of subspecialty paediatricians embark on this next chapter in their careers.

We rely very much on all our members and fellows who examine and assess in our MRCPCH exams and START assessment. Please be reminded that it is no longer necessary to be a RCPCH Fellow to undertake these roles – and, as ever, thank you to all those of you who help with these important roles. Get in touch with our examination team to find out more.

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