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Monthly blog from RCOG President

Blog 6 August 2021

Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership…

Dr Eddie MorrisFor all of us working in medicine, and particularly in our specialty, these are times of huge change and need for adaptability and flexibility - especially in relation to the most recent coronavirus wave in the UK and its impact on the workforce.

In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to pass on these concerns to NHS leaders, along with suggestions as to what should happen if pressures continue to rise. As I write this blog, with the UK incidence falling again, it is unclear whether the pressures on O&G services will abate soon.

Those of you who follow our media activity will have seen over the past three weeks the work that we have done with the Royal College of Midwives to try to improve vaccine awareness and uptake amongst the pregnant population in the UK. We felt that with the opening up of society, the relaxation of restrictions, and rapidly increasing prevalence of the delta variant, we had a duty to raise with politicians, clinicians and most of all pregnant women that this had the potential to be a perfect storm. We were seeing more than 100 women admitted with COVID per week and one in seven needing intensive care. We were also hearing from you about your fears of a rising third wave. This, combined with the somewhat shocking figure that only 55,000 pregnant women had been vaccinated in England and Scotland since data collection began, meant that action really did need to be taken.

We therefore have all worked hard, with NHSE&I and the devolved nations through our vaccine subgroup (co-chaired by RCOG Vice President Pat O’Brien), to refine our messages to recommend women take up the offer of a COVID vaccination. Where vaccines are available, please make time where possible to check with every pregnant woman you see in the course of your job that she has had the opportunity to consider a vaccine and, if not, recommend it to her. If she is uncertain, explore her uncertainties and help her in reaching a decision.

We were delighted last week to launch the Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth (ABC) collaboration, an exciting partnership between the RCOG, RCM and THIS Institute at the University of Cambridge. Commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care, ABC will work with maternity staff and women and their birth partners to co-design a new approach for improved identification, escalation and action on fetal deterioration. It will also develop best practice for managing impacted fetal head at caesarean section. This is a culmination of so much of the work we as Colleges have done over the past years with many partners, starting with Each Baby Counts and the impact of its findings on the whole of maternity in the UK – from policy makers right to the shop floor. Work has now started on the first phase of this new and exciting project, and I am grateful to RCOG Vice President Tim Draycott for his work in bringing the team together and helping shape the submissions to the DHSC.

When I wrote my blog at this time last year, it really looked like we were coming out of the pandemic into a summer following which we would be starting on a recovery with vaccines as our path to long term security. Sadly, only part of this has come true. Vaccines are part of the recovery and have resulted in significantly fewer admissions to hospital and deaths in the UK, in the face of similar rises in prevalence of the virus. I am optimistic that the technology of vaccine production will allow us to cover other variants and boost immunity such that we can cautiously start to think about recovery.

At this time of year I also hope you have had or are about to have some sort of break. It is vital that you do – the pressures on us all are immense. We need to look after each other and be respectful of the need for recovery. I will soon be taking a break of sorts. I won’t be travelling overseas but will be exploring the UK and seeing family and friends. While I do this I will be thinking of those working in any profession around the world who have families overseas and have been unable to see them due to travel restrictions. I will be thinking of you and hope so much that you will be reunited with them some time soon.