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Women's Voices newsletter November 2018

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

  1. Foreword
  2. Getting involved as a Lay Examiner
  3. Improving clinical care through engagement


"It's an honour to be taking on the role of co-Vice Chair of the College's Women's Network. I'm keen to continue the Network's focus on ensuring that the RCOG keeps care of women throughout their life woman-centred: based on partnership, knowledge, understanding and trust. The age of simply 'Doctor knows best' is long past, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Network, staff at the College, healthcare professionals and, of course, the Women's Voices Involvement Panel! The panel is such a crucial part of the College and, along with the Network, I'm excited for us to work together to increase engagement with women, and empower them to make informed choices about their care and their bodies."

“Before I joined the Network, I confess becoming a member was something that had never occurred to me. That’s not to say I wouldn’t want to. On the contrary, I knew the Network and the wider College involvement did excellent work to keep women at the centre of their care. I’d met both the Network Chair Kate Brian and her predecessor Cath Broderick, and been very impressed by their commitment and passion for women-centred care.

However, as Chief Executive of Group B Strep Support I had some significant differences of opinion with the RCOG when it came to preventing group B Strep infection in newborn babies, and assumed this would rule me out from any role with the RCOG.

How wrong I was! At the suggestion of a friend, a couple years ago I applied and was successfully appointed as a Network member. I have since worked with the RCOG on some fascinating projects – I’m a member of the Patient Safety Committee, have represented the Women’s Network at a Birthrights conference, and at a variety of meetings and initiatives. My role with the Women’s Network merged seamlessly with that at GBSS when the College updated their GBS guidelines, and then as we worked together on joint patient information. There has always been far more that we agree on than disagree on, namely safe, compassionate care for women and their babies!

There has been so much progress in embedding the public within the College’s work, the most recent examples you can read about in this newsletter.

The recent recruitment and training of lay examiners is great example of how lay involvement can and should be made a core part of education and training, but we still have lots to achieve together in partnership with the profession.

The Women’s Network really values the insight the Involvement Panel brings. At our quarterly meetings we discuss many topics which have come up through dialogue with panel members. Particularly, the information and opinion-sharing that takes place through the Panel’s Facebook page is always fascinating and thought provoking and I would encourage any members who have not joined the Facebook page to do so. You can email if you want to be added to the group.

Thanks for your involvement to date, and your continuing commitment to this group, and to improving women’s health!"

Jane Plumb
Co-Vice chair of the RCOG Women’s Network

Jane Plumb

Jane with Kate Brian, Women’s Network Chair, and Catherine Nestor, co-Vice Chair


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Getting involved as a Lay Examiner

Women’s Voices member Marie Morgan-Henfrey speaks about the role of Lay Examiners in the RCOG examinations process…

“When I read in the Women’s Voices newsletter that the RCOG was recruiting new Lay Examiners for the Part 3 exam I decided I would apply as I felt my assessing skills and personal experience could be of use. I had previously experienced three ectopic pregnancies, blocked fallopian tubes, fibroids and ovarian cysts. As a result of this and other medical issues I know first-hand how important it is to have medical professionals who can communicate with their patients in a calm way, ensuring they get the relevant information across to the patient and/or their families in order for the patient to make an informed choice whilst ensuring patient safety.

I was delighted to be accepted as an examiner and invited to the training day.

The participants were made up of both lay and clinical examiners from all parts the country. The Part 3 MRCOG Clinical Assessment consists of 14 tasks in a circuit, each task based on one of the 14 modules detailed in The Part Three MRCOG syllabus.

Our role as Lay Examiners is to assess the domains of communication, patient safety and information gathering from the perspective of the patient. 

I found the training very enlightening on the rigorous training the doctors go through before they can be entered for the exam. As part of the Lay Examiners Q & A the current Lay Examiners told us about their experiences on taking part in the assessment process which I found extremely helpful as well as their assessment top tips.

The final part of our training was carried out with the clinicians where we had a chance to practice the assessment process by grading mock video exams. It was very interesting to hear the clinician feedback on how they had graded the exams.

I am really glad I applied and was accepted and I am looking forward to taking part in the examination process. I think Lay Examiners offer a unique assessment of candidates in making sure their interpersonal skills are of a high standard. Passing this exam will make sure they are really highly skilled not only in the clinical skills but also in communicating and supporting their patients.”

Marie Morgan-Henfrey
Lay Examiner

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Improving clinical care through engagement

Rohna Kearney, a consultant urogynaecologist in Manchester and member of the College’s Women’s Network, tells how working with the Women’s Network has impacted on her practice.

“Over 2 years ago I applied to join the Women’s Network as a clinical member for several reasons. I had some limited experience of working with lay members in quality improvement and research projects and had found this a positive experience and I was interested to learn how a lay member committee at the RCOG could contribute to improving Women’s Health. To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what my role was as a clinical member and what the role of this committee was.  I wondered whether it was simply a tick box exercise to make the college appear more modern.

However after 2 years I can say that my membership of the Women’s Network has been professionally transformative. My commitment has involved attending meetings 4 days a year and occasional emails but these 4 days have been the most interesting professional days of the year.  My role has been to help communicate an understanding of the scientific or medical aspects when needed so that members feel they have enough understanding of the issues being discussed. However in reality the background work and reading of the lay members often exceeds my own. The commitment, hard work and talents of the network members are outstanding. They altruistically give up their time to attend committee meetings, review guidelines and scientific papers, examine and contribute to RCOG projects to ensure that the voices of women, carers and families are heard. They bring a diverse range of experience both personal and professional and offer different viewpoints. Sometimes these viewpoints can challenge my understanding and preconceptions of how care should be delivered. After every meeting I return to Manchester on the train and am grateful for the new insights from members and feel inspired to improve my practice by involving women in designing service change and research.”

Rohna Kearney
Woman's Network Clinical Member

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