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Women's Voices newsletter April 2020

Welcome to the latest edition of the newsletter and, as always, a particular welcome to new members of the Involvement Panel.

  1. Foreword by Kate Brian, RCOG Women’s Voices Lead
  2. Introducing the next RCOG Women’s Voices Lead, Shaista Gohir
  3. Involvement in the Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement – Maria Viner

Foreword by Kate Brian, RCOG Women’s Voices Lead

It is a tough time at the moment, and I hope that you and your families are managing to deal with the many challenges we all face.

We are particularly grateful to our Women’s Voices who are supporting others and also wanted to send a special thank you to the obstetricians and gynaecologists along with all their colleagues in the NHS who are on the front line during this unprecedented crisis – we have sent them a message of support from the Women’s Network to College members. I have been heartened by the kindness, generosity and community spirit so many people have shown.

My term as Women’s Voices Lead is coming to an end, and this will be the last foreword I am writing for this newsletter. The last four years have been a wonderful experience, largely thanks to all of you, our Women’s Network and Voices members. It has been an absolute joy to meet so many inspiring people who are dedicated to making real changes. The Women’s Voices Involvement Panel has flourished and we now have close to 700 members. The closed Facebook group has become an active place for conversation and discussion, and I have been so proud to be a part of this community. We have made some huge steps forward at the RCOG, and although there is still much to do, you have all helped to make a genuine difference for the future.

Looking back, there have been some highlights, starting with the launch of the Menopause Hub on the RCOG website, work which had been championed by the previous Women’s Network Chair, Cath Broderick, and her team. Working with some of the incredible menopause champions amongst our Women’s Voices and with other professional groups in the field, we have continued to build on this work to raise awareness and to support women.

Women’s Voices member and birth campaigner Michelle Quashie was the driving force behind the fantastic Women’s Voices Day held at the College back in 2017, which brought together many of those working to improve women’s birth experiences from across the country.

We also held our Fertility Forum last year, which offered much needed evidence-based information in a non-commercial environment, and we now have a Fertility Hub on the RCOG website where you can find videos of many of the talks from the day.

More than 20 Women’s Voices and Network members took part in last year’s RCOG World Congress, and spoke about their experiences of obstetric and gynaecological care. It was fantastic to see women’s voices put at the very heart of this scientific meeting.

In 2018 when the Duchess of Cambridge was appointed as Royal Patron, Women’s Network members played a key role in the day, and we chaired a discussion with the Duchess to highlight the RCOG’s work with women.

The patient and public involvement team have worked to develop our webinars and YouTube channel, and our work on health inequalities has been making a real impact at the College - it is great to see initiatives that start with the Women’s Network and Voices Panel taken up in this way.

The wonderful Women’s Network members deserve as special thank you for all the time and effort they dedicate to ensuring women are represented at all levels in the College, as do the Vice-Chairs Catherine and Jane for their wisdom, encouragement and friendship. Finally thanks to Matt and Kerri in the Patient and Public Involvement team who work tirelessly to ensure you are properly represented at the RCOG and who have been a huge source of support.

It is now time for me to hand over to Shaista Gohir, your new Women’s Voices Lead. She will be championing women’s voices in the College for the next three years. I know you will make her welcome and I also know you will inspire her in the way you’ve inspired me!

Take care and keep up the good work.

Women's Voices team April 2020

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Introducing the next RCOG Women’s Voices Lead, Shaista Gohir

By Shaista Gohir

I'm so pleased to have been appointed as the next RCOG Women’s Voices Lead, taking over from Kate Brian in June to begin my 3-year term.

I know what an incredible resource of knowledge and experiences this group is and how much the College values the Involvement Panel and all that its members contribute.

Shaista GohirAs you may know the role of Women’s Voices Lead is to ensure the patient and public perspective is meaningfully embedded across the College’s work at all levels. It’s a lay role (not an RCOG staff role) which has responsibility for chairing the Women’s Network – the RCOG’s lay committee. Together with the Network’s Vice Chairs and its members, the task in hand is to make sure that the voices of people who use O&G services inform all the College does in education and training, exams, clinical guidance, audit and quality improvement and policy. Of course, that’s only possible by fully understanding what the issues and needs of service users are so the relationship with this panel is key, as well as the many patient organisations, support groups and campaigns all working to improve the health of girls and women in the UK.

I am a committed and passionate advocate for women’s health and well-being and am looking forward to bringing my experience to the role. I co-chair the Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK), which has membership across the UK. We conduct research, operate a national helpline, and deliver campaigns and carry out policy influencing work. We have researched various health issues at MWNUK including issues around abortion; period poverty; quality of and access to health information and services; health issues related to FGM; and maternal health and emotional wellbeing. I myself had a poor maternity experience when giving birth to my second child, which led to health complications that could have been avoided, so I know first-hand how important it is to feel supported, empowered and well informed to be in control of your health and decisions around it.

I have been getting up to speed over the last couple of months and learning from the fantastic work Kate has done during her term as Women’s Voices Lead, before officially taking the reins in June.

It’s a real privilege to have been appointed to represent your views. I am so excited to get to know members of Women’s Voices and working together over the coming years to improve women’s health and our health experiences.

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Involvement in the Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement

By Maria Viner

I have been working with the RCOG and RCM team at the Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement.

We are working on the creation of a digital tool to personalise and improve maternity care for women with the aim of both reducing placenta problems and preterm birth and improving outcomes for women and babies.

My interest in this work stems from my experience of my first son, William, dying the day after he was born. He was a term baby and nothing could have been done by anyone to change the tragic outcome we experienced. This was devastating for my family and I. In my work since I have met far too many families who have experienced the same grief but had there been a different approach to their care during pregnancy the outcome could have been so different for them. Through the digital tool and personalised care we hope to both identify families where a difference can be made and to improve care for everyone using maternity services.

The whole team believes it is key that women are partners in the design and development of the tool and that it meets their needs. They were delighted to welcome women to the first Women’s Involvement workshop session in February at the RCOG. People with a range of experiences took part; some had experienced the death of the baby, some had uncomplicated pregnancy and birth experiences, and some had not experienced a pregnancy. Some of the women work daily with women in health/social care related settings, some have experience of working with data, and experience of working with or developing NHS clinical apps. The collection of lived and professional experiences gave a depth to the feedback and opinions collated.

Lots of great ideas came out of the day and there was so much expertise in the room helping to get started on how it can become the most useful tool it can be for both women and healthcare professionals. The workshop focused on understanding what is needed, the barriers and opportunities, and beginning to co-design the approach and interface. We also discussed the medical evidence behind the programme, and how the technology will achieve the aim of improved outcomes through a personalised, woman-centred approach, and a reduction in inequalities in the care women experience.

Women's voices will continue to be sought at specific times on the project timeline when involvement and co-design will be crucial to inform design and developments. Women will also be involved with the implementation in the initial sites and wider engagement will take place following the analysis of the initial results.

It was great to see some familiar faces from our Women’s Voices Involvement Panel! Thank you very much to those who took part. We will make sure to keep Women’s Voices updated about the progress of the tool.

For more information about the programme, please see the RCOG's announcement "RCOG forms alliance with RCM to launch The Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement":

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