Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership
When I started as President, as I have told many of you before, I prepared a set of priorities that, like many in this role before me, were pledges to our Fellows and Members as well as to the women we care for.
COVID-19 has transformed our lives so much, in ways that seemed unimaginable in March 2020. Our world and the way we work has changed around us and we have moved on to living with yet another ‘new normal’. To get to where we are today has needed hard work and resolve like never before in our home and work lives wherever we are, all over the globe.
Sadly, though, this month the people in Ukraine are suffering far, far more than any of us could ever imagine. I’m sure we’ve all seen the interviews with people who, days before, were performing ‘normal’ jobs and now are manning checkpoints, making homemade munitions or leaving their country. The stories of such hardship that has come so quickly and so violently are moving in themselves, but what touches me most is the unity of the Ukrainian people in their passion to defend their democracy. I cannot imagine the pain they must be going through. As a College we stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and all healthcare workers who are continuing to provide medical assistance in such challenging circumstances. We are also in early discussions with partners about how we can provide neonatologists and obstetricians in Ukraine with practical support and equipment from the UK. I hope you don’t mind me using this blog to encourage you, if you can, to donate to the Red Cross crisis appeal to support their humanitarian work in Ukraine.
We are mindful that many of you may be personally affected by the devastating events being reported, and will undoubtedly feel anxious and concerned, seeing distressing reports in the news. The College has developed a Wellbeing Resources Hub which brings together resources and sources of support for members’ wellbeing and mental health. The NHS website has also shared Five Steps for Supporting Mental Wellbeing which you may find helpful.
Last year when the UK Government reduced its spending on overseas aid we expressed our huge disappointment both before and after the announcement. The fiscal tests required for funding to be fully restored are not forecast to be met until 2024/25 and so we continue to push for the cuts to be reversed sooner. The damage these cuts will do to the health and wellbeing of women and girls around the world is incalculable and therefore it was encouraging to hear UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stating in November 2021 that the Government will be “restoring the development budget for women and girls straight away”. We will however continue to collect insights and experiences from clinicians around the world and lobby the UK Government on this issue until we see action.
Last week it will have been very difficult for anyone working in women’s health not to have heard about the UK Government’s decision to cease abortion through remote access from 30th August this year. This decision, which has ignored the voices of women and the evidence of its huge safety and efficacy, was completely unexpected and very disappointing. We all know that the knock-on effects of this will be a rise in unplanned pregnancies, increased teenage pregnancy rates, later abortions and procurement of unofficial routes to abortion, all of which come with well-established risks to health.
I have personally taken steps to try to work towards a reversal of this decision while trying to use the outcry to work towards some sort of future provision of abortion that is better than where we were before the pandemic. Other areas of medicine are being supported to continue the amazing changes that occurred as a result of the pandemic and I find it difficult to justify why such a key component of women’s health doesn’t get the same level of support – particularly when the government in Wales announced a day later it will continue to provide the service permanently.
I’m very pleased to tell you that in the coming weeks we will launch the new RCOG website. Following on from our work last year to digitise our events and exams, this marks the next milestone of our ambitious digital transformation programme. This is very much your website and as such has been developed with input from Members and key users throughout. This is a project that I’ve been particularly passionate about and look forward to sharing our new accessible and inclusive digital home with you.
I wanted to end on workforce, not perhaps in the way you might expect. I will though point you to the workforce report, published two weeks ago. It is a very practical report with professionalism, teamwork, flexibility and mutual support running throughout. I hope you enjoy reading it.
I don’t know many working in O&G in the UK who haven’t watched the BBC series This is Going to Hurt, an adaptation of some of the book written by Adam Kay (a past O&G trainee) with the same title. I also don’t know many people who don’t have an opinion on it! As you would expect I have had many opinions sent to me which I have considered in the light of my own experiences during my career, about 6-7 years ahead of Adam’s.
I found the series very upsetting and had to remind myself on several occasions that it is a drama, based on some real life events. Having lived in this world for most of my life it was all too easy to slip into the temporary world created by the series and feel it as real. Thus for me it triggered a lot of my most difficult career events which for a few days I found disturbing, and this is what a lot of those who contacted me raised. Though, to a member of the public I am reassured that this is not how they would have digested it.
What the series missed out on were the hundreds of uplifting events that happen in a career in O&G and what motivates us all to join and stay in this amazing specialty. It also missed the immense support and mentorship that we all get and I had throughout my training. This week I went to the celebration of the life of one of my mentors when I was a medical student in the late 1980s and a trainee in the 1990s. At this celebration I also caught up with two other consultants who mentored me during those years and to whom I will always be grateful. The mutual support and mentorship that I was fortunate enough to experience and has been available to most over their career is covered in our new workforce report with an emphasis on how this should look for us working and training in O&G in the 21st century.