A time for change, impact and the power of collective voice - President's blog

In Camilla's final message as College President, she celebrates the power of member voice in making important and unprecedented changes for the good of child health, and looks forward to welcoming members to the RCPCH 2024 Annual Conference.
Dr Camilla Kingdon, RCPCH President

I am pinching myself as I pen my final blog after three years of writing one of these almost every other week! It’s been a brilliant opportunity each fortnight to stop and think about what we are doing and consider what I think is front of your minds. I know I haven’t always provided the most scintillating read, but you’ve been a very indulgent audience and I hope my efforts (with the support of our amazing College staff) have helped you keep up to date with College work and news.

The power of the member voice 

I am struck by how much we can achieve collectively, and I trust you will agree with me that the College is really making its mark in a whole range of areas relevant to paediatricians and child health. Just this week the UK Government is laying down legislation in the Tobacco and Vapes Bill which will mean that children turning 15 this year or younger will never legally be sold tobacco, and significant regulations will be put in place to restrict vape flavours and marketing of vapes. This is incredibly important legislation which we, and others, have campaigned tirelessly for. Our voices have been listened to because paediatricians are viewed as trusted doctors who have their patients’ best interests at heart.   

I always considered myself as a neonatologist who could speak about the health of newborn babies but probably not qualified to say much more… but I was totally wrong! I have learnt that each of us has a voice and the public are willing to listen. Whether we decide to call out the deeply concerning impact of poverty on children and young people or whether we make the case for taking the climate emergency seriously because children are bearing an unfair burden of impact, we have a powerful opportunity to advocate and lobby and be trusted by the public. We can’t afford to waste this chance to influence a healthier future for all children and young people.    

I know that not everyone wants to personally speak up but that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. I was delighted to see that over 2,000 paediatricians and child health professionals signed our e-action to lobby the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Chancellor to prioritise funding the rollout of an RSV vaccine campaign later this year. This helped us achieve widespread media coverage earlier this week that we hope will make it harder for the UK Government to ignore, and is such a great example of where we can use our combined expertise and knowledge to make the case for priority setting.  

Care and advocacy for gender questioning children and young people

I am also convinced that we can meaningfully add our professional voice to a wider conversation about the care of children and young people who are questioning their gender identity or experiencing gender incongruence. You may be aware that as of 1 April a new service will take over clinical responsibility for seeing children with gender incongruence, with two hubs being established in the north and south of England. The following week, Dr Hilary Cass will publish her Independent Review of Gender Identity Services for Children and Young People. Gender identity is therefore likely to feature prominently in the news and may attract some political interest.

Our role as paediatricians, though, is to remind others that these are children and young people in need of holistic and person-centred care. As with all our patients, these young people may also present with mental health needs, neurodiversity, school attendance issues and so on. All of these children have been on very long waiting lists and so their needs may be very significant. We have to collectively hope these new NHS services mark an opportunity to substantially improve care for this group. Potentially we can see gender services as part of excellent adolescent health services, underpinned by well-designed research studies to understand the interventions needed for optimal outcomes for young people. We have created an online resource for members on this topic to provide you with updates and information as it becomes available.  

Our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion

There are times when it is crucial to call out discrimination in plain and simple language. I know that many are talking about the racist and misogynist comments made by a leading businessman about Diane Abbott MP. As clinicians we all know that racism can quite literally impact patient safety and lead to real harm. So, for the avoidance of doubt, I am clear that we condemn these comments and commit to redoubling our efforts to calling out and stamping out all forms of discrimination across the NHS and our College. Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work continues and you can read more on our website.   

Volunteering with the College

As I end my time as President, I am struck by the very many hundreds of paediatricians who work with the College – serving on committees, examining, recruiting and so much more. Everything the College achieves is thanks to those that volunteer for the College and we simply can’t do the work we do without you! We are currently trying to understand how the College can better support volunteer members and how we can make that experience better. We would like to hear about your experiences of volunteering (or not volunteering) with the College, so please look out for a number of opportunities to give your feedback, including forthcoming workshops and a survey.  

RCPCH Annual General Meeting

Finally – it’s our annual conference next week! It’s going to be fantastic and I can’t wait to see many of you in Birmingham for what promises to be a superb programme. Please come along to the Annual General Meeting which is on Tuesday 26 at midday, where members can join in person or via livestream. Members can visit our website to read the agenda and learn more about how to join the meeting online [content no longer available]. This is an opportunity for you to hear more about what we have done in the last year and also ask questions.  

Thank you for supporting me over the last three years. It really has been the most extraordinary privilege. I have learnt so much and met so many incredible people, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity. Thank you all – from the bottom of my heart.

Take care, all of you – and very best wishes,

Camilla


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