Happy New Year to you all!
I sincerely hope that each of you managed some days away from work and had a chance to spend time with family or catch up with friends, or both. Taking whatever time we are allowed to switch off is important, but not easy when the pressures at work are so relentless. One can even feel guilty for switching off the emails and the WhatsApp notifications, but it is vital to have time to relax and catch up so I sincerely hope each of you managed this.
We are now beyond the winter solstice which is always a landmark moment for me, living in the UK, and many others who struggle with the gloom and cold of winter. I know we still have many challenges to face this winter but each day is getting slightly longer and that gives me hope. As tough as it is currently, we will come out the other end and the multiple kind deeds and compassion that we show each other and our patients, will be the legacy we leave from this difficult time.
It is easy and perfectly understandable to feel completely helpless when the tsunami of patients just keeps coming. No individual paediatrician can fix the problems in the delivery of care for children and young people in the NHS and so is true of the College. However, collectively we can make a difference with steady solid steps of improvement, keeping the voice of the child at the heart of what we do. I am convinced we can work our way to a better NHS for the future and we will continue to advocate on behalf of members on the extraordinary pressures facing the NHS. What keeps me optimistic is remembering that we have many allies in the wider world of health, including the huge number of charities and groups who have goals aligned with ours. Whether we want to focus directly on NHS services, the cost of living crisis, on sugar tax or mental health, there are many amazing people and groups we can join forces with to make a difference.
The King’s first New Year Honours was a reminder to me, again, that there really are inspiring people who have the same priorities as us and who want to see children’s health and wellbeing prioritised. I always enjoy the ‘task’ of going through the list soon after it is published to discover the extraordinary work that so many are doing and how many of these people are our friends and colleagues! My heartfelt congratulations go to those recognised this year in the New Year Honours.
Talking of friends and colleagues, our Officer for Wales, Dr David Tuthill, has come to the end of his term of office. I have loved working with David. He always reminds me that he’s actually from North West London but having married his lovely wife Heather, took to being a Welshman with David’s typical enthusiasm! It’s hard not to be infected with David’s energy and he has worked incredibly hard to champion child health in Wales and to create a real sense of community along with his colleagues and fellow paediatricians in Wales. He’ll be a tough act to follow but don’t let that put you off - please get in touch with our Wales office if you want to find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am also delighted to inform you that our interim CEO Rob Okunnu has been appointed to the substantive CEO position at the College with immediate effect. Rob has been an incredibly supportive and kind colleague to me during my time as President and the College couldn’t have hoped for a more able leader as we start the New Year. We undertook a very rigorous recruitment process and interviewed a number of excellent candidates, but ultimately the recruitment panel was unanimous that Rob was the standout best person for the CEO role. I hope you will join me in congratulating him.
Seeking your views
We continue to focus on the impact of health inequalities on the lives and wellbeing of children. We have a number of ambitions in 2023 to continue our work, create fresh impetus and help all of us engage actively with this topic. This includes exploring the idea of creating an app that clinicians can use before or during their consultations with children and families. We really need your input to help us understand if this would be valuable and, if so, how we might make it as useful as possible. Please contribute to our short survey on what clinicians feel they would most like to have at their fingertips.
And finally, the little things do matter. It isn’t too late for anyone who hasn’t had the flu vaccine to get it. We are seeing very high levels of flu infection across all age groups. If you haven’t had it – don’t hesitate. Remember also that children from two years old until the end of primary school are eligible for the nasal spray vaccine, as well as all children who are deemed to be at risk from flu. It may feel like a small thing but every little thing makes a difference at the moment.
With my very best wishes for 2023 – and please take care of yourselves and your colleagues.
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