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A letter from Sussex Place, September 2011

Richard Warren, Honorary Secretary, writes....

It is with sadness that I write this, my final Sussex Place, just as I step down from the role of Hon Secretary. It has been a wonderful seven years.

As we work increasingly with the struggle of NHS changes, workforce numbers, developments in education and increasing International needs, I have become acutely aware that the RCOG is a highly achieving charity with an abundance of talent in its hard working membership and staff. I am proud to have been a part of the large team from this specialty that has placed it at the forefront of the Colleges. Thank you for all your support.

Those of you who have been following my Sussex Place Letters will know that I regularly state my opinion and this is my last opportunity. Forgive me.

Whilst we must now understand, and work within, the financial limitations of our national healthcare systems, the medical profession must be stronger in their defence of standards and quality. Arguably the medical professions have at best been witnesses to, and at worse accomplices to, poor healthcare.

Whilst this College has been strenuous in its attempts to improve care, it is not a trade union. However, have you ever considered the individual responsibility that we each hold? Why are there huge variations in medical practice and outcomes? Why, for many years, did we accept long waiting times, often measured in years? Why have we been so slow in reducing hospital infection rates? Why have the needs of training not been realised? Why do all trainees rotate at exactly the same time? Advances in science, sub specialisation and increasing costs make a natural argument for healthcare networks and rationalisation but progress is minimal. The profession should be leading the changes in medical practice and where necessary we all must vociferously press politicians and the media to seek to improve standards – equally, neglected patients, unable to feed themselves, and no time for reassuring conversations with patients and relatives, are unacceptable. Compassionate caring is encompassing and is not measured by numbers and through put. Despite rhetoric, many cost saving programmes do impact on such unmeasured quality.

Women deserve the best care at anytime of the day or night; if our health service were to be designed afresh I am sure that there would always be a fully trained specialist immediately available in areas of medicine where life threatening problems may occur rapidly and without warning. So why for years have many services been run by trainees who, although usually excellent, have not fully completed training and do not have the length of experience? Why do non-emergency services almost come to a halt out of hours? The “nothing gets done at the weekend” philosophy must be challenged. The infrastructure of the NHS is too costly to be idle out of hours, during which time patients do suffer. Services must be extended. However, I am the first to state that this can only be achieved through engagement with the profession and through associated improvement of work–life balance and remuneration.

Internationally, the College’s activities in training and promoting safety are gaining pace and it was good to hear recent optimistic news about the continuing provision of UK experience for overseas trainees under the Medical Training Initiative scheme – more news when available. The RCOG is very much an International College and through its International Representative Committees and Liaison Groups will accelerate its close links around the globe.

Well, it’s time to say good bye - thanks for listening to me. The Honorary Secretary’s role is, I believe, the best in the College and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I will miss communicating with so many friends and colleagues across the world, and of course, describing, as I have, the views across Regent’s Park through the seasons! This is your College and I know how strongly the President and Officers value your views and involvement.

The present team of Officers - Tony Falconer, James Walker, Wendy Reid, David Richmond and Paul Fogarty will now be joined by Mr Ian Currie, the new Honorary Secretary. I wish him every success and I am sure, like me, he will have a rewarding and fulfilling tenure.

My sincere best wishes to you all – farewell.

Richard Warren
RCOG Honorary Secretary

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