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A letter from Sussex Place, June 2011

Richard Warren, Honorary Secretary, writes....

So now we know! Not only who has and who has not got tickets for the Olympics, but the new RCOG website now allows us to study which parts of The Scanner are visited by members and fellows. It is fascinating to know that people are more interested in who has died rather than those still alive. Death notifications and anything to do with Excellence Awards are the most popular with, I am pleased to note, these Sussex Place letters.

This month ... So they are listening but are they changing? As ACCEA awards in England hang by a thread, and have been curtailed in Scotland, how should achievement and excellence be recognised?

With strong criticism still being waged against the UK’s coalition government’s health reforms, the exercise of listening has come and gone. The last College council meeting was attended by Dr Matthew Shaw, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon from the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, one of 44 health experts under the Chair of Professor Steve Field who’s Future Forum has now considered what it has heard and has delivered its final report to Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Lansley. We await the result and impact with interest. We are told that, despite multiple reforms in the past, the NHS must change dramatically to survive but there remain considerable concerns about proposed methods of commissioning, the competitive effect of any qualified providers, teaching and variable standards of care, to name but a few!

A number of increasing pressures are being placed on the service and on the high standards we have strongly supported over the years. I have sadly noticed, as I travel around the country, how many people are talking about retirement and counting down the years they have left until retirement. Concerns about job plans, pensions, Distinction Awards and revalidation threaten to influence the retirement plans of many of our senior and experienced colleagues. Financial disadvantages for continuing to work seem perverse but are likely consequences of new rules. The potential earlier loss of this talent at a time when those being awarded CCTs have less experience must be a major worry to quality and safe services.

It has been my great pleasure recently to have given the welcome address to the new members of the College. Without dampening the congratulations of their great achievement at success at MRCOG, I spoke of the importance of communication, team working and empathy as attributes that make a real difference to the care offered to patients and their families. When it comes to senior doctors and assessing their contribution to the NHS and healthcare development, how do you acknowledge and reward excellence? Distinction awards are sometimes criticised and can cause resentment, particularly as it is so difficult to compare differing aspects of success. However, over the years, whilst fully aware that the majority of doctors work hard and - “well above and beyond” - I have become aware there are many whose particular efforts fully justify acknowledgement. Designing a transparent and equitable system that encourages and recognises this additional attainment is, I believe, very important but I suspect these awards may well be sub-summed in cost saving measures. When we have more news we will let you know.

It is important to keep you informed of the three “active” major College Working Parties which are likely to have major influence in the future. The High Quality Women’s Healthcare Review Report, challenging and guiding the requirements of a modern service is soon to be published. Both the Future Role of the Consultant and the College Governance Structure groups have commenced and aim to report by the end of the year.

Entering summer after the driest spring on record, I am lucky enough to be on vacation with friends, completing this Letter whilst sailing on a 33m boat on the Adriatic with temperatures in the thirties, unbroken blue skies and calm seas! Terrific!

I do hope that you all have a great summer (northern hemisphere) and have time to enjoy such refreshing breaks at home or away with friends and family.

With very best wishes

Richard Warren
RCOG Honorary Secretary

If you have any comments, please write to letterfromsussexplace@rcog.org.uk