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A letter from Sussex Place, May 2011

Richard Warren, Honorary Secretary, writes....

So much news and I am only allowed a few lines! A Royal Wedding, Bin Laden, continuing strife across the world, a beautiful spring – yes, we already need rain, the bidding for Olympic tickets– and Norwich City Football Club gaining promotion to the Premier League!

Firstly, however, important College business; the Membership Survey and the long awaited Working Party Report, Getting a Life are two significant “new releases” which I am sure you will find interesting. What does the membership feel about its College and how, within the stresses of today’s working world can you get a better life?

Many thanks go to all those who took part in the RCOG UK Membership Survey. Over a thousand members responded to all the questions which were designed to help steer the College into the future in the direction that you feel offers the best for women, the specialty and the membership. The value of any survey is, however, best judged not by its questions, nor answers, but by the changes that it evokes. Whilst there were many areas of support and appreciation, which is in itself very useful, there were a few common areas that received adverse comments and the College must now concentrate on these – including, “how to achieve better training in a limited time, improving work based assessment with less bureaucracy, coping with fewer trainees, delivering RCOG events and CPD closer to home, keeping costs to a minimum, support for members in their Trusts, understanding grass-roots problems and improving communication”. An action plan, in line with the new Strategic Plan, will be drawn up and progress towards these objectives will be monitored.

Well, back to life in general. There is so much going on. The pageantry of the Marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge brought colour and, for many, temporary diversion from the worries of the world. The discovery of Bin Laden came as a surprise and on-going problems in Libya and Syria continue to concern as part of widespread political unease. Financial difficulties persist and cause ongoing trouble to world economies. Do the almost super-natural forces of tornados, which are over a mile wide, reflect ongoing climate change? As, too, perhaps, does a sunny and warm spring across most of the UK? For those, whom I know are keen to know of the picture outside the College in Regent’s Park, it is, today, uncharacteristically dry but very green, all the trees are out and spring is several weeks advanced on usual!

Most of you will know that I am lucky enough to work in a lovely city, Norwich, with a brand new modern well designed hospital and a new University Medical School, - over 5000 deliveries per year- and great colleagues. From my appointment, albeit over twenty years ago, there has been major consultant expansion, from five to sixteen, so why is life busier and more stressful than ever? Within our chosen dedicated path as doctors, I am sure we share the principle of always putting our patients first. New processes in cash restricted services, working within targets and with increasing expectations, have had their toll whilst job planning has, perversely, made us more aware of our time commitment to the NHS.

A satisfied and fulfilled workforce produces better results, an advantage for the employer as much as the individual. So how can you achieve a better work – life balance? The new Working Party Report, Getting a Life explores the issues, causes of stress and offers support and ways of improving things – a must read for most in these days of pressure. I certainly benefitted from writing my chapter and reading the report as an editor! Stress and anxiety is not a failing, indeed in moderation it can be helpful; however, excessive stress is damaging and it is often the most conscientious who suffer the most. The identification and appropriate management and avoidance of stress is essential. Simple actions may well help you improve your lifestyle; I hope they do.

My best wishes to you all.

Richard Warren
RCOG Honorary Secretary