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A letter from Sussex Place, December 2012

Christmas Greetings from Sussex Place

Christmas is a time of families coming together, festivities, spiritual reawakening, rest and reflection. For some, you will be busy providing care to women throughout the world and this carries its own rewards.

We, as Officers, are very fortunate to experience some very special events in people’s lives and the MRCOG/FRCOG admission ceremonies are a clear example. The President has tried, with the admission ceremonies, to maintain the solemn formality with a little light relief and has always invited the children to come forward to see their mothers or fathers receive their scrolls. At the last ceremony, one young girl came onto the stage with her mother and the three of them were in the photo! We were all moved by this experience. This truly illustrates the importance of trying to be relevant and in touch with everyone as an organisation.

Recently, we have been very heartened by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by our members to the new thinking and strategy of the RCOG. This is particularly pleasing, given the very real challenges being faced by all clinicians across all aspects of medicine within Trusts. At times, it may seem that our aspirations are impossible to achieve given the current financial constraints in the NHS. However, in some areas, configuration of services in a slightly different way unlocks other opportunities, although change is always unsettling.

Tomorrow's Specialist has been very well received and that does not surprise us given the quality of the final document. The continuing work from this document will refashion our approach to women’s health, originally expounded in High Quality Women’s Health Care. We would encourage everyone to read both documents as they are so relevant to our future. There is also a shorter synopsis written by Nick Timmins of the Financial Times, in which he combines the central thesis running through both documents.

At the recent Annual Professional Development conference, Tony, the President, discussed views about professionalism in the light of the forthcoming publication of the Francis report due early next year. Although the report focuses on the years 2005-8, the breakdown of clinical and professional standards in some hospital departments were found to be unacceptable. At our peril we can bury our heads in the sand and blame other medical disciplines, but there will be parts of this report that resonate with members’ own experiences.

Our principal duty of care is to protect the patient and ensure that the quality of care is at an acceptable and safe level. This may not always be the case and as a profession we must accept that failing, apologise and improve services for the future.

2013 will pose many new challenges, including the authorisation of the National Commissioning Board in England. We are very pleased by the potential appointment of a National Clinical Director to oversee the women’s and maternity portfolio.

For many of you, revalidation will go live and we encourage everyone to maintain their e-portfolio of supporting information. We believe that revalidation will improve care. For surgeons, outcome data will be the norm in the near future. We have been very proactive by producing maternity outcome data which should be available per Trust in the early New Year.

Sadly, the world is a place of tremendous uncertainty. Our friends and colleagues in several countries, particularly Egypt and Syria, deserve our special thoughts and prayers as they try and evolve new political structures. Conflict and death are never far away and we should salute the bravery of these healthcare professionals as they continue to provide services in high-risk situations. Reports from international agencies like MSF point to exhausted doctors working round-the-clock with little state support and basic medical supplies.

Within the UK, we have much to celebrate but the challenges of inclusion and involvement of members is still a central theme. We need to connect with everyone using new technologies but also need more direct engagement with people at different phases of their careers to encourage them to contribute to the core elements of the College’s work.

The College has received permission from the Privy Council to amend our Royal Charter to modernise how we govern ourselves. From next June, a new Board of Trustees will take over legal responsibility for the running of the College as a charity. We are now seeking two Fellows or Members of the College to join the Board of ten people. Four trustees will be lay appointments and four will be drawn from College Officers and Council. If you are a member of the College in active practice you may wish to put your name forward for consideration by the appointments committee. The new Board will meet four times a year and posts are unremunerated. Further details will be available from the Chief Executive’s Office in the New Year. To register your interest, please email

As your elected Officers, we would like to thank everyone for their extraordinary contribution and dedication to improving women’s health everywhere, to acknowledge the huge personal contribution of many to the work of the RCOG and finally, to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and New Year.

Tony Falconer
RCOG Honorary President

James Walker
RCOG Honorary Senior Vice President, Global Health

David Richmond
RCOG Honorary Vice President, Clinical Quality

Wendy Reid
RCOG Honorary Vice President, Education

Ian Currie
RCOG Honorary Secretary

Paul Fogarty
RCOG Honorary Treasurer