Dr Mando Watson, a Consultant General Paediatrician who joined the Shape of Training group as an expert in integrated care, looks at both the challenges and opportunities for innovation from the last few months.
COVID-19 has reminded me that child health will look different over the next 10 years, adapting as the world changes. The last few months have forced us to think afresh; well-worn tramlines no longer apply.
Most striking has been the importance of the patient perspective. An effective health system needs patients and families to play their part – supporting neighbours, using the health system wisely, understanding risks and options. The pandemic has also put a spotlight on the opportunities that technology offers, on the central role of public health and prevention and on the inextricable link between mental and physical health.
What does this all mean for the paediatrician of the future?
Long before COVID-19, we knew the health needs of our population were changing. More children with long term and complex conditions now live well beyond childhood and must navigate the choppy waters between child and adult health systems. How do we give paediatric teams the skills to meet the needs of these young people? Data clearly demonstrate that social determinants are responsible for the wide disparity in health outcomes across our country. How does a paediatrician advocate effectively for these children?
How do we prepare [future paediatricians] for child health needs – not of today, but those of 10 or more years’ time?
It takes many years to become a paediatrician. Bright and enthusiastic young people are attracted into the profession. So, how do we prepare them for child health needs – not of today, but those of 10 or more years’ time? What will the paediatrician of the future be doing? What skills and knowledge will be most in demand?
Undoubtedly, there will be more emphasis on population health. The paediatrician of the future will no longer wait in hospital until a child becomes sick before they step forward to help; they will be going into a GP practice and asking, "Who are your children, and how can I help?" Certainly, they will work more closely with mental health specialists and will use behavioural insights to guide patients and families in self-management.
The College’s upcoming report, Paediatrician of the Future, publishing later this month, delves into this in detail.
In the future children and young people will be supported to achieve what matters to them, mental and physical health will be seen as one, and prevention and equity will frame our practice.
...we have what it takes to adapt to the changing needs of our patients
How can the paediatricians of today help train the paediatricians of tomorrow? In many ways, we are already doing it. Compiling this report reminded me how many talented and highly motivated colleagues I have. There is much to learn from the paediatric departments across the UK which have been resourceful, innovative, patient-focused and forward-thinking.
The pandemic has reminded us that we have what it takes to adapt to the changing needs of our patients. Paediatrician of the Future will provide inspiration for those who want to "do the right thing" and develop the very best paediatricians of tomorrow.
Child health will look different over the next 10 years, adapting as the world changes; this report will guide the next generation of paediatricians.
The College will publish Paediatrician of the Future on this website in late October. To keep up to date, follow us on Twitter @RCPCHtweets. You can also find out more about our future plans on our Shape of training page, which we'll regularly update.