Today we create our futures - President's blog

Camilla writes about recent ‘virtual’ visits to Scotland and Sri Lanka and also discusses the enormity of the climate change challenges we face and how we all have a role to play. She talks about our new sustainable future with Archives of Disease in Childhood (ADC) online and highlights upcoming elections.

It has been a pleasure to visit Scotland both virtually and in person over the last two weeks. The Scottish Paediatric Society (SPS) held their annual St Andrew’s Day Paediatric Symposium on 12 November and I was privileged to be invited to speak about the College’s priorities and strategic direction for the next three years. We had a lively discussion about the importance and value of encouraging senior paediatricians to remain in the kind of work they can best contribute to, rather than retire when they no longer feel able to undertake out of hours work. There was a consensus that most of us would like to work into our 60s but currently are often not able to because the on-call commitment is too onerous. We all agreed that this was a serious loss for child health and that senior doctors should be valued for their leadership, experience and abilities to nurture younger colleagues.

Let’s not feel defeated by the scale of the challenge – everyone of us has a role to play.

After my talk, there was a delightful interview with Dr Ian Laing, retired neonatologist, who perfectly demonstrated how we can all keep contributing professionally by talking about his musical career which he kept developing alongside his clinical one. Not only does Dr Laing play violin at performance level, he is also a composer and he played the brilliant piece of music he has composed to celebrate the SPS’s centenary next year.

That was my ‘virtual’ visit to Scotland! My true visit to Glasgow was on 6 November to attend the WHO Health and Climate Change Conference with our RCPCH Climate Change Steering Group. This was an inspiring opportunity to spend a day considering how health and climate change overlap and where and how we can act to minimise the impact. The resounding message from the conference was that climate change is a major global health issue and we need leadership from every country to consider ways of addressing this public health emergency. While COP26 failed to deliver on many of the expectations, it is very encouraging that 50 countries have specifically committed to develop climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems as a means of limiting the impact on people’s health. This commitment aligns with the College’s call in our climate change position statement. Let’s not feel defeated by the scale of the challenge – everyone of us has a role to play - as Greta Thunberg said, “Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.” 

Remaining on the theme of sustainability, we have excellent news to share about Archives of Disease in Childhood (ADC). From 1 January 2022, all RCPCH members will have access to ADC online, via the BMJ website. At the same time, we are also changing the way we provide ADC to members by moving to default online access, with an additional fee of £35 per year for those who wish to subscribe to print copies.  

The impact on child health, especially in low resource settings, is likely to be enormous and the conference was unanimous in calling for global action to address this.

We intend that this change will have benefits for members, the environment and for paediatric research as well. The revised arrangement with BMJ allows us to provide online access to members at a lower cost than previously. We are using this saving to extend access to more members, reduce the cost for our existing subscribers and if we achieve further reduction in cost, this will be used to fund our climate change activities and other projects. For more about the changes, please read this blog by Dr Liz Marder, RCPCH Treasurer and Chair of the Climate Change Working Group. There is a series of frequently asked questions about this change – and if you still have any queries after reading them, please do not hesitate to get in touch via email to membership@rcpch.ac.uk

RCPCH shares a 25th birthday in 2021 with the Sri Lankan College of Paediatricians. I was delighted to join their birthday conference on 11 November along with speakers from around Asia. It was especially good to be asked to speak about climate change and make the case for why this is a problem that is sadly going to surpass the scale of the current pandemic. The impact on child health, especially in low resource settings, is likely to be enormous and the conference was unanimous in calling for global action to address this.  

Finally, you will be receiving email and paper voting forms to cast your vote in our forthcoming elections for the roles of Vice President for Science and Research, and Vice President for Health Policy. The elections go live on Monday 22 November –  please check our website for details and exercise your democratic right to make your choice!   

With best wishes to you all, and take care.


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