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Monthly blog from RCOG President

Blog 8 October 2021

Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership…

Dr Eddie MorrisOver the past four weeks, activity at our new home at Union Street in London has steadily increased as more staff have been able to return to the office in line with our carefully planned phased return.

This does not mean that we see the pandemic as ending – more that the impact of the vaccination programme on the spread of the virus, and thus the confidence of RCOG Members and staff, has allowed us to meet.

One of our first in-person activities was a hybrid meeting of Council. For the past 18 months, Council have met entirely virtually, and while these meetings have been incredibly effective, it is clear that the ability to debate, challenge and innovate can be enhanced by face-to-face or hybrid meetings. Therefore we are delighted that, thanks to the enhanced digital capability the College has developed, we now have the option for our important meetings to retain the increased accessibility that videoconferencing provides, while also being able to bring people physically back together in the same room.

As clinicians during the pandemic, many of us have actually worked in a hybrid world: delivering front-line acute care and surgery in person while offering virtual clinic appointments. The rest of the working world, as they return, are also embracing a hybrid or agile working culture. We are therefore delighted, as your College, to be able to also offer this increased flexibility. As a truly global College, this way of working has really opened up new opportunities for deep and regular engagement with colleagues wherever they are in the world.

Living in a more digital world allows us all to be a little more in control of our priorities. A good example of this is being a member of one of our numerous RCOG committees. These groups of our Fellows and Members are instrumental in shaping the work that we as a College do on your behalf. I was amazed a few weeks ago when I was told that over 2,500 people volunteer in some way to contribute their opinions and expertise to RCOG committees and other groups. Being a member of a committee is where I started to work for the RCOG, and I think it is fair to say that I have always found it most enjoyable. The virtual world means that now most committee members can attend remotely with minimal impact on their working day and avoid hours of travel to come for what could be a meeting lasting a couple of hours. While most of our committees now work digitally, we are slowly reintroducing an element of face-to-face meetings where this helps the output of the group. There will always be a digital element though so you can choose what works for you on a particular day.

This new way of working has been enabled thanks to a significant programme of change in relation to the technology we use to deliver our educational content and the ways we support you more broadly. Digital transformation of the College was one of my priorities when you elected me as your President and I am delighted that the pandemic has not prevented this progress. Far from it, it has only strengthened the need for us to review the sustainability of all of our operations and we have accelerated our work to future proof all elements of our business. I am grateful for the support and investment from your representatives in Council, and the RCOG Officers and Trustees who have all helped with this project as it has progressed.

You will have already experienced the transformation of our events. Between July 2020 and June 2021, we were able to deliver 65 virtual courses and conferences, increasing overall delegate numbers by 54% and non-UK attendance of virtual courses by 91%. Many of you will also have taken our hugely successful digital exams; during the same time period and at the height of the pandemic more than 4,700 candidates have been able to sit RCOG exams. Our work has not stopped there. Over the coming months you will begin to enjoy the benefits of content produced in our newly installed, state-of-the-art digital studio. You will be able to listen to audio content recorded in our soundproof podcast booth and colleagues are working hard to deliver a completely new website for the College to be launched early in the New Year. Should you wish to read more about our digital transformation journey, we have recently published new webpages detailing all our work in this area.

Earlier this month we held our first in-person Membership and honorary Fellowship ceremonies. This was our first opportunity to welcome new Members to our new home at Union Street, and I must say I found the whole day very emotional. It was lovely to see the happiness and sense of celebration and achievement in the room. I always try to speak to new Members after the ceremony and while doing so I heard many stories of the difficulties and challenges faced over the past 18 months. Studying for MRCOG during a pandemic has so obviously been hard and therefore if this was you and you are coming to one of our ceremonies this month, you should be extra proud of your achievements. Well done!

I believe that one of the major beneficiaries of the pandemic and increasing our use of digital will be the climate. I really hope that this will result in less travel, less CO2 emissions and a healthier planet for us all. We know just from making our RCOG World Congress a virtual event in June this year, more than 3,535 tonnes of carbon emission was saved by the lack of international flights, alone, which is the equivalent of 32 MILLION miles in an average car. This month we will see the COP26 meeting in Glasgow. I will be attending a fringe event along with other medical leaders from the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change to reinforce the message that the climate emergency we are all going through is having direct effects on the health of the people we care for.

Our new building in London has really shone as we are returning to work. It has been designed to be an environmentally sustainable centre for the highest quality education and networking for many providers of women’s health. I previously wrote in one of these letters how proud I was that the Royal College of Midwives has joined us, and since then we have other organisations who have taken up residency. The building is a preservation of an old hop warehouse from the 19th Century merged with a newer office building, united by an impressive atrium and beautiful helical staircase. We are delighted that its environmental credentials have recently been recognised in its nomination for an architectural sustainability award, which is voted for by the public. You can find more details about our nomination in the People’s Choice, “conserving” category and vote for our building here.

Finally, I wanted to end this month’s blog by thanking our members in India for running their hugely successful AICC-RCOG conference in Kerala. While the officers and I missed the sights, smells and colours of India in the delivery of this vital congress to the 2,145 RCOG Fellows and Members in India, we were all delighted to be part of the congress and join in the celebrations remotely. A big thanks to Bhasker Pal, the AICC overall chair and Dr Uma Ram, AICC South Zone chair for the amazing amount of work in setting up this impressive meeting.