Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership…
In mid-June we hosted our first entirely digital RCOG World Congress. Over 3000 delegates attended from more than 85 countries, enjoying 240 thought provoking sessions over 4 days from their homes and places of work. The social media content generated from the Congress reached almost 3 million people.
I found it an incredibly enjoyable and instructive event, with the highest-quality talks and cutting-edge oral and poster presentations accessed through a very easy to navigate platform. As I am sure you might appreciate, as this was our first such large-scale event we were naturally apprehensive, but I feel that everyone involved, including the collaborative RCOG teams, our tech partners, speakers and session chairs should be congratulated for the work that they did.
My main reflection from the Congress was the immense improvement in accessibility. RCOG World Congresses have always been an international affair with large numbers of delegates attending from overseas, but I have often wondered how we can make such high-quality information accessible to more and for longer. I have also often thought that parts of the world that would really benefit have not been able to, due not just to the cost of registration but the cumulative costs of attendance including travel and accommodation.
Anyone attending the recent Congress will have enjoyed sessions where there were Chairs hosting live from the opposite sides of the world, with speakers delivering their talks and joining Q&A sessions from around the globe. The questions in some of the sessions that I attended also showed just how global the Congress was – with some asking questions that revealed the challenging settings in which they worked.
As a learning organisation, the College has of course looked in detail at the feedback provided from delegates who ‘attended’ the event. 94% of delegates said they would recommend a virtual RCOG World Congress to a colleague. We also received a number of very nice comments, my favourite being: “So pleased with this virtual platform. This should be the way forward for future conferences and meetings. Perhaps a hybrid type, so that those who cannot travel will have a chance to participate.” This comment highlights the fact that as a global College we need to make sure our educational products are accessible for all, wherever they are in the world. This aim is one of the cornerstones of our organisational strategy and a central objective of our digital transformation agenda. As such, virtual and hybrid options will continue to be a welcome feature of our post-COVID evolution of RCOG meetings.
One final positive from our virtual Congress that I absolutely loved was the environmental benefit. When you calculate the environmental impact of no international flights required for this year’s Congress (UK travel that did not happen was not considered in this modelling), approximately 3,535.07 tonnes of carbon emissions were saved. This is equivalent to over 32 million miles travelled in an average car. Again, with environmental sustainability another key strategic objective for the College, another notable success.
At an important RCOG session at Congress, Jo Mountfield, RCOG Vice President for Workforce & Professionalism, presented the vital work that the team she heads up have been doing to address some of the many issues that face the UK workforce, which I am sure many of our international colleagues will also recognise. Several new documents have been uploaded to the website that I urge you to read as they suggest several important changes that we feel need to be addressed: our report on ‘Roles and responsibilities of the consultant providing acute care in obstetrics and gynaecology’, and papers on ‘Safe Staffing’. These have arisen because of several issues raised in the UK over recent months, including the findings of the Ockenden report and other high profile cases.
Wherever we are in the world, it is a busy period for the whole of our specialty. Obstetrics hasn’t stopped, yet it has been much harder to deliver a safe service during the pandemic and especially while trying to restore services. The pressures on gynaecology, especially for those managing and prioritising waiting lists, are also significant. This is something I have observed in my own unit, here in the UK, but I know from the many messages I receive from you directly that these are challenges we are all facing. I also hear about regional issues in the UK through Council representatives – we have an upcoming meeting in early July – and I am well appraised of global issues via our incredible International Representatives (IRC) and Liaison Group Chairs. One of my high points from this year’s and all Congresses was the annual meeting of all our IRC and LG Chairs. In the meeting, updates were shared from all IRCS and LGs followed by a question and answer session with RCOG Officers and the RCOG Executive team. Once again, I was struck by the shared achievements, commitment and resilience demonstrated by all of the global O&G community in what has been a truly unprecedented 12 months for us all.