Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership
It is festive tradition for leaders to write retrospective prose to their members and employees with highlights of the year gone past and a nod to improving things to make the next year an even better one – aiming to reward and motivate in one.
In early November, I fully expected to write my blog in this style. I was making plans for the coming year as it truly looked as if, the normal winter pressures notwithstanding, we could seriously think of how we could live as normal a life as possible with COVID-19 around. I know many of you were planning similar activities, and many of my close friends even dared to start to think about longer overseas breaks.
Now, sadly, things are very different. It is hard to believe that it was not even four weeks ago on 24November that the WHO was notified of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Yet again, we are about to enter truly uncertain times, and we will be on hand to do our best over the coming weeks to help the healthcare system serve the women we look after, and to support you.
But I do still want to mark the achievements of the year just gone. We all have so much to be proud of and we need to celebrate that. This year, the roll out of the vaccine programme has allowed so many of us to resume as normal a life as possible and get our services running again. In the UK the NHS has long waiting lists for surgery, and you might have recently completed the survey or been interviewed by the RCOG policy team to explore what is happening where you are and what barriers you are experiencing in getting your waiting lists moving again.
My team of RCOG officers and I continue to work hard in your interest and in the interests of women and babies. Sue Ward and the Exams team have worked to ensure exams have taken place so careers can continue to move forward. We are proud of our digital MRCOG Part 3 but like many other Colleges we are considering, once it is safe to do so, returning to a face-to-face clinical exam. The achievements of the education and exams team have been incredible at some very difficult times, but we know from the recent GMC report that the effect of the pandemic on training in O&G needs urgent investigation.
Ranee Thakar, as Senior-Vice President, has continued high level involvement with the international representative committees along with our international Council reps. This has ensured our overseas members have continued to have a voice and be supported by us. Ranee has had a lot of success in winning grants for campaigning and advocacy against cuts in UK overseas aid and to deliver essential training in Bangladesh. Ranee, along with Sue Ward and Jo Mountfield, has been travelling the regions virtually in hugely successful workshops covering race equality and members’ experiences in the workplace, including differential attainment.
Pat O’Brien and the membership team have successfully restarted admission ceremonies which have resulted in the very successful introduction of hundreds of new members to our new building in Union Street, London. In the next year Pat and I, along with your local council reps, are planning a roadshow across the UK so we can visit your units and hear straight from you. This was planned in year one of our term of office, but has sadly been delayed by current events. Look out for an event coming near you.
Jo Mountfield and her workforce team have worked tirelessly on developing the RCOG workforce report (due for publication in early 2022), the Workplace Behaviour Toolkit and a statement on out-of-hours emergency complex gynaecology cover. Perhaps the most important work that Jo and her team have been commissioned to do by the Department of Health and Social Care is the creation of a tool that allows calculation of the obstetric workforce relevant to individual localities around the country. We feel this tool will really help the system recognise the importance of obstetricians and support the provision of standardised, safe and personalised care tailored to communities.
Tim Draycott and the Clinical Quality team have been making huge strides in modernising much of the clinical advice and support we give you, including our guidance products and patient information. These are incredibly busy times, especially with all the additional guidance we have all needed during the pandemic. We are also greatly excited by the progress in the Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth (ABC) Collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives and THIS institute. Thank you if you have helped already – more than 500 maternity staff have responded to our call as part of the co-production at the heart of this project. 2022 will see increasing activity in the second phase of the project as we pilot new evidence-based tools in 5 units.
For me, it has been such a busy year as your President – I find it hard to pick out any single highlight from 2021, and I certainly plan to make no predictions for 2022! However, along with this blog’s publication, we are launching the recording of the first ever production from our digital studio – an interview I conducted with healthcare leadership expert Professor Michael West. The topic of this interview could not be more important for us all to digest over the coming weeks. We all have some leadership roles, and Michael talks so eloquently about the fact that if you lead with compassion and listen meaningfully to those that you lead, the environment we work in is more enjoyable and thus the care we give will be safer. Please take the time to watch or listen to it – it lasts for 45 minutes and I promise it will change your approach, especially in stressful times.