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Monthly blog from RCOG President

Blog 6 October 2020

Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership…

Dr Eddie MorrisLast week was national inclusion week and the start of Black History Month and it is therefore entirely fitting that on Friday 2 October we had the first meeting of the Race Equality Taskforce. We have appointed the most amazing members to the Taskforce, including two Member and Fellow representatives and three trainees.

One of the three workstreams of the Taskforce is to address the inequalities in outcomes in the care of women and I am delighted that the organisation FiveXMore is joining us on the Taskforce. We have also launched a joint campaign with FiveXMore that aims to help communication with women, with five easy to remember steps so all health professionals can champion measures that effect positive change in all that we do at work.

The Coronavirus pandemic has again started to tighten its grip around the UK and many of us are living with local arrangements that restrict our movements and lives. In other countries around the globe where we have so many Fellows and Members, I am acutely aware that you are in the grips of a prolonged and aggressive first wave.

The UK health service is trying its best to prepare for a second wave of coronavirus whilst dealing with the desperate need to try to deliver some of the elective care that our patients and the NHS expect of us. Striking the right balance is undeniably stressing all of us. This is where good leadership really comes to the fore. There is a bit of leader in all of us and we must reach for our inner manager and see what we can do to help improve how our services work. An example of how you can help is to do your very best to remind the senior leaders in your Trusts and Boards that we cannot redeploy staff away from front line maternity care. You will recall we previously reported most units had an element of redeployment and this is an action that is not at all supported by the RCOG or the RCM.

This week BJOG published the results of a survey about changes to maternity services during the first wave of the pandemic. The findings are as you expect, with reductions in antenatal and postnatal appointments alongside reductions in home and midwife-led births. Worryingly, 86% of units reported fewer women presenting as emergencies. This study has not reported whether the changes are directly linked to adverse outcomes but I am certain that should these changes be allowed to happen again, history could judge that we will have failed to learn the lessons of the first wave.

Something that impacts us all is the MRCOG exam. Whether you are one of our thousands of trainees around the world or one of the trainers and supervisors supporting a trainee you will undoubtedly have been affected by the unavoidable suspension of the MRCOG. It is a strange quirk of fate that we started work on this nearly three years ago with the express intention of modernising and improving the global accessibility of the exam. I previously announced our partnership with Pearson VUE and we are very grateful to them and the RCOG exams team for the huge effort that has gone into accelerating the start of the digital global Part 1 and 2 exams.

Our first digitally delivered MRCOG Part 1 and Part 2 exam took place at the beginning of last week. Over 1,600 candidates in 48 countries around the world attended a test centre. Initial feedback has been very encouraging, with some lessons learnt for future development. The DRCOG exam was also conducted digitally last weekend in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The exams team are also working hard towards a solution for the Part 3. Please keep your eye on the website for more information.

Finally, I’d like to come back to the Race Equality Taskforce. We advertised for Trainee and Fellow and Member reps for the group. The number and quality of applicants was exceptional and after an intense two days of interviews we appointed five people of extremely high quality and standing who I am certain will work hard to represent your views. What struck me most in everyone who applied was their enthusiasm, energy and already evident commitment to address inequalities in UK medicine and medical careers. I took great comfort in this and I really do feel that we have a workforce dedicated to tackling the issues here. Thank you to everyone who applied, feel free to join the conversation at #RaceEqualityTaskforce on social media