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Monthly blog from RCOG President

Blog 19 April 2021

Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership…

Dr Eddie MorrisLast month we noted the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK. Over the past few weeks we have started the process of slowly coming out of our enforced hibernation.

For many of us this won’t feel that different as we have been going to work over the last year. But there are many members of the public who really are stepping out for the first time in months and we need to recognise their anxieties and support them.

The introduction of the vaccine to the UK fight against coronavirus alongside the lockdown has started to have a significant effect on the outcomes of hospitalisations, admissions to ITU and deaths. The RCOG vaccine group, a subgroup of the COVID-19 guidance cell, has continued to lobby for appropriate monitoring, data collection and counselling of pregnant women offered the vaccine, to help them decide whether or not to accept it.

Ensuring women have access to the right information and people who can help them make an informed decision is crucial. We have also been working with the government and the health service on a set of public information videos for pregnant women about the vaccine. You will have already seen our infographics and other relevant vaccine-related materials on our website and I do recommend that you stay as up to date as possible.

Do watch the presentations from our special webinar on COVID-19 vaccines, pregnancy and fertility on Wednesday 14 April at 7.30pm GMT. While this work is focusing on the UK context, I do believe it will also be of interest and use for our colleagues around the world.

I have written to you before about the lobbying that we do on behalf of our profession and on behalf of the women that we care for. This week saw the final meeting of the Each Baby Counts programme, in a safety summit with the EBC Learn + Support team. This amazing initiative started in 2014 and has become one of the defining projects in maternity safety in the UK. We have also been instrumental in securing an additional £95.9m (recurring) investment in maternity care in the UK, covering additional staffing and training among other initiatives. Our new strategy for the College over the next 5 years includes a commitment to exploring how we might be able to use our experience of this kind of work in the UK to help lobby for change in other countries around the world.

On another matter close to my heart as President, you may be aware of a recent UK government-commissioned report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, whose claims of a lack of institutional and structural racism within the UK have caused much controversy. The College has published a response, highlighting the ongoing need to urgently tackle disparities in maternal mortality and other areas of O&G care, as the data speaks for itself in terms of perinatal and fertility outcomes, and stressing the importance of acknowledging the presence and impact of systemic racism.

Finally, I have previously shared updates with you on our plans to roll out the Part 3 MRCOG exam internationally, following an enforced pause during the pandemic. We have successfully run two small diets of a fully digital Part 3 in the UK, and are delighted to be rolling this out in a small number of international centres in May. Demand for the Part 3 currently outstrips capacity due to the resource-intensive nature of the exam, which is exacerbated both in our digital-only model and by social distancing restrictions.

This means our international May diets are by necessity much smaller than we would ideally like. We are working hard on plans to increase capacity for our international exam candidates later in the year, which will include revisions to the model (pandemic permitting) to hopefully allow us to expand capacity as much as possible, as well as an additional diet and new international exam centres. We are holding a number of webinars for international candidates over the coming weeks to share these plans more widely, with emails due to go out to candidates over the coming days.

As always please send me any feedback you may have on anything in my email, or any other issues – we really are listening.