In the lead up to COP27, it’s hard not to be alarmed by the predictions that are being published about how the future looks for the planet. As paediatricians, the headlines make especially concerning reading. The most recent report from Unicef finds that currently one in four children are impacted globally by climate change and by 2050 almost every child in around the world is predicted to experience frequent heatwaves. The direct impact on children means day-to-day activities like play and school are compromised. Young children are more likely to become unwell and die. Indirectly, heatwaves cause crop failures leading to hunger, malnutrition and forced migration. This is a child rights issue and we must speak up on behalf of those who cannot. After the Glasgow COP last year and the international commitments to work to keep the 1.5°C target alive, the children of the world have the right to hold the world’s leaders to account as they meet in Egypt.
The argument to significantly reduce fossil fuel reliance is clear – and the imperative to cut more ambitiously and at a faster rate is compelling. Air pollution is a clear reminder of our reliance on fossil fuels, leading to toxic traffic emissions. The impact of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is now beyond dispute – children are the most vulnerable but every one of us is affected. It was therefore with a real sense of failure, that we learnt that the UK Government is delaying its commitment to set air quality targets by 31 October 2022. Any delay risks causing further harm, and in the run up to COP27, flies in the face of the need for global action to address air quality and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. We have written to Dr Thérèse Coffey, the new Secretary of State for DEFRA, to express our concern. No amount of air pollution is acceptable and needs to be tackled with utmost urgency.
As a College, our commitment to supporting the child health workforce underpins everything we do. In particular, we are clear about our role in supporting our members and have a clear focus on improving the working lives of paediatricians at all stages and ages. Recruitment into our specialty is vital but must be carefully counterbalanced with a clear commitment to improving retention. I am really thrilled at how our work is developing across the College, and also specifically in our Thrive Paediatrics project which is generously funded by a grant from the Dinwoodie Charitable Company. We are starting a large project which will include a Best Practice for Sustainable Staffing document which we hope will provide a benchmarking tool for clinicians to use around the country as they look at their rotas and staffing. To support this work, I am delighted that we have two paid Clinical Fellow posts which are now open for recruitment. These Fellows will be integral to our work supporting our workforce and I know will be interesting, fun and a great opportunity to learn and develop. I strongly encourage anyone who might be interested to look at the advertisement.
Linked to our focus on supporting the paediatric workforce, is our recent 2022 workforce census focusing on consultants and SAS doctors across the UK. I think that many of the findings will come as no surprise to you, but it is very useful to have it documented and supported by data from all four nations. The retirement data is a particular concern and adds weight to the imperative to support our profession across the whole career course and continue to lobby for pensions reform. Do check out the report and recommendations.
Progress on our College Strategy
Finally – we have just published our reflections on how we are delivering the RCPCH 2021-2024 Strategy and what our next challenges are. You can find a discussion between me and Rob Okunnu, our interim College CEO, on the website.
That's it for now.
With my best wishes – and take care
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