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Engaging with women and the profession

Blog 6 December 2012

Tony Falconer, RCOG President

Dr Tony Falconer, RCOG President, writes…

This week began with a loud bang – the much anticipated start to GMC Revalidation followed by the unexpected but joyful announcement of a royal pregnancy. Any other news will pale in comparison but I feel compelled to draw your attention to discussions at our Annual Professional Development conference last week. Old news perhaps but still important nonetheless.

As you know, the RCOG has undergone much internal restructuring over the last two years and as a result, we now have improved resources and capabilities within the College. Much of this investment has been undertaken so that we continue to be relevant to the specialty and our members.

My talk centred on our present Strategic Plan which was adapted from the previous strategy and the operational priorities which we, as a College, have been working on over the past year or so. I believe we are on track to achieve our objectives and, hopefully, to realise your expectations.

However, it is still very clear to me and the Officers that an area requiring further thought and development is how we, as a profession, improve on our engagement with women.

Let me remind you about a surprising finding which we uncovered when we drafted the recent Tomorrow’s Specialist report.

We found a distinct disparity between what doctors think women want from the NHS with what women actually want. Around 90% of consultants polled agreed that the majority of women were generally satisfied with the care they received. When the women themselves were asked for their opinion, just over 50% said they were happy with their medical treatment and the way in which staff cared for them.

The Department of Health is now consulting on the NHS Constitution. This document is rich in its aspirations and promises. It is well-intentioned and a laudable step forward but it will be judged on whether or not patients’ rights are actually upheld.

The RCOG and the specialty faces this same challenge. We must somehow find a way to connect with women and to deliver the sexual and reproductive health services they want and need, while always being mindful of the changing needs within the medical workforce.

With our GP, midwifery and other colleagues, our aim is to provide women with comprehensive care throughout their lives. This will be realised through the strategic clinical network model, underpinned by the public health approach (the best way to provide integrated care). This also means that the patient journey will last beyond childbirth, well into the postmenopausal period.

Not only do we need to deliver high quality and safe services, we must also provide them with a good patient experience throughout their lives. It is a right enshrined within the founding principles of the NHS.

Which brings me back to the APD conference where I posed several questions to the delegates present. A few of the most pressing are listed below:

  • How can the RCOG engage more meaningfully with the women we serve?
  • How can I deliver my local services more efficiently, within a network model?
  • What can the RCOG do to make the process of revalidation simpler?
  • How would you define an ‘Academy’ of women’s health?

Let me know your thoughts. We do not, as yet, have all the answers ourselves and I would welcome your views. Please send these to

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