What's been happening in health policy over the summer?

Returning to work after a relaxing summer holiday, Simon muses on what's been happening at the College - from our calls to preventing ill health to safeguarding support, and considers how he can play his part in the upcoming careers campaign.

I have had quite a summer, celebrating my 50th birthday by relaxing on a desert island. Well 170 desert islands in the South Pacific; The Kingdom of Tonga to be precise. I was last there aged 21, for my elective in obstetrics – interestingly, more doctors have visited Tonga on an elective than the general public have as a holiday destination. Perhaps that’s related to how difficult it is to get there, what with there being no direct flights. We went via Auckland, where we spent five days enjoying time zone reversal, whilst attempting to surf and visiting Hobbiton.

Perhaps more focus on road safety would be a good thing for the UK... data [for our State of Child Health report] tells us that road traffic accidents are increasingly common amongst adolescents

On our travels, we noticed that locals only cross roads at pedestrian crossing and only when the signals tell you to go. When I am lecturing medical students I’m often surprised at their risk perception. Turns out, many cross the road where it is most dangerous whilst talking or listening to music. By contrast, whilst away we found ourselves standing with the locals, with no cars coming from either direction, waiting for the signals to turn in our favour. Perhaps more focus on road safety would be a good thing for the UK. In fact, it is one of the areas we are reviewing within our refresh of State of Child Health, as data tells us that road traffic accidents are increasingly common amongst adolescents.

In between the snorkelling and swimming with whales, I also noticed the many public health campaigns, from preventing infections to promoting mental health in young people. These reminded me of the progress the College was making back in the UK on prevention of child ill health. Earlier this summer the Government released Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s, which outlines a number of positive proposals for children, including: obesity, infant feeding, vaccinations, oral health and tobacco. In fact, the Green Paper reflects many of the calls we made within our Prevention Vision earlier this year.

On our journey home, I caught up with an old friend, Jamie, a consultant in Brisbane’s major trauma centre. Jamie and I spent five years of medical school together; sharing houses, working on the medical school annual show and even venturing to Tonga on our elective. After several decades apart we both have little hair and have the same taste in hats.

So, what did I miss over the summer? Well about 600 emails! But the Policy team have been busy without me, growing the number of local child health advocates. We’re seeking volunteers to act as RCPCH Ambassadors, using their clinical experience and communication skills to work with health leaders in their area to make real change for children and young people. If you are interested, please get in touch. Our team also expanded this month, as we welcomed Dr Karen Street as our new Assistant Officer for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Data analysis has begun on our national audit of children’s emergency care, as we’ve achieved a 100% response rate in Wales. And there might be light at the end of the paediatric early warning system tunnel for England.

On the safeguarding front, we’ve made it easier than ever for paediatricians and trainees to find out what competencies they need day-to-day. We’ve also published a position statement on establishing a correct diagnosis of hEDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome hypermobility type).

We can all make a difference... I now have a list of about ten students who want to come to my clinic

Finally, we’re developing a recruitment campaign to encourage medical students and foundation doctors to join paediatrics, which is launching this autumn. I was reminded last week that we can all make a difference. I found myself covering for a colleague, teaching history taking and examination skills to medical students. As I had booked the seminar room on the neonatal unit, I took four of them who expressed an interest on a small tour of the unit. They all stayed late on a Friday to discuss prematurity, x-rays and outcomes, but the highlight for them was seeing the babies (I thought one student was going to melt from oxytocin overload). I now have a list of about ten students who want to come to my clinic and attend my ward rounds. I hope they all turn out to be paediatricians.

I am currently on nights. Got to pay for the holiday somehow, we maxed out two interest free credit cards to fund it…