Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership
On my first day back to work after a short but very refreshing summer break, I was alerted to criticism of the College’s work supporting the vaccine rollout to pregnant and breastfeeding women, which turned out to be the result of a misleading and out-of-date piece of MHRA guidance still live online. The role of President does inevitably result in a profile that attracts people’s thoughts and opinions, and I do my very best to answer these as soon as possible.
Screen grabs from this document began circulating on social media erroneously telling people the vaccine wasn’t safe. As you will know, we have all worked hard around the world to collect data that shows the vaccine is safe and also saves lives and this is now the well-established position. We rapidly wrote to the MHRA and DHSC and thankfully the document was quickly amended and a statement released. Whilst we appreciated the speed of the clarification, we do think the document could be made clearer still.
With the colder weather approaching, it is vital all pregnant women feel confident to have the vaccine as the winter COVID and Flu vaccine programme starts.
I don’t normally consider politics in this blog but in recent weeks we have not only seen the 56th – and third female – Prime Minister of the UK elected, but a new Secretary of State for Health and Social care has also been appointed. This is an important moment for the country and for all of us working in health. I will be writing to the new Secretary of State to welcome her to her role, highlighting the importance of reducing gynaecology waiting lists, improving maternity safety, strengthening the health workforce and stressing the importance of working together in the implementation of the Women’s Health Strategy. I, and my team of Officers, engage in this type of advocacy work behind the scenes, to lobby for the women we look after and for your life in the workplace.
Whilst much of the lobbying we do as a College alongside the RCM has resulted in many major improvements in maternity (both realised and promised by the powers that be), we are about to enter a month where there will be another publication following a major investigation into a maternity unit. This will undoubtedly be an emotional time for the affected families whose stories will be retold and pain relived, and will also put pressure on the staff at that unit. For the sake of these families and their loved ones, we must learn from these events, and I believe we are. As a College we are respecting these adverse events by working with the UK ‘system’ to encourage resource back into the specialty so the workforce is funded to the levels that are needed to deliver safe care. Equally, the RCOG needs to learn from those units who have been through these very trying, challenging and emotional investigations. As Officers we have spoken to the team at Shrewsbury and Telford and it is clear there is more we should do to support our Members in units in a similar position. The offer of support has been there for many years through our Supporting our Doctors work and our team here do a marvellous job. However, as a learning organisation, we continue to consider what more we can do. If you think your unit needs this type of support. please contact us.
At the College last month, we welcomed representatives from France, Germany and the Netherlands as part of our regular four countries meeting. We heard about the state of women’s healthcare in these countries. It was particularly interesting to hear that they share many of the same problems as us: underfunding, rota gaps and attrition across all grades. It wasn’t all bad news though – there was a presentation of the hugely successful joint guideline pilot. This pilot dates back to 2017 when I was asked in my capacity then as Vice President if the RCOG would join. It made perfect sense to me – the evidence that underpins any guideline is the same worldwide at the time of its synthesis and it seems unnecessary for every country to do its own search. The principle of this project is to do one joint search and create a guideline that has common features, but in a way that where necessary a country-specific guideline can be produced for individual health systems. I am proud that the RCOG guidance team have been a key member of this project and it is clear from what we saw that it will go from strength to strength.
The observant of you will have noticed the rollout in recent days of another critical piece of modernisation at the College: the launch of our new Learning Management System, RCOG Learning. Over the coming months and years, from Trainee to SAS/LED or Consultant, we are confident this best-in-class digital system will become key to your educational relationship with the College.
As I am sure you are no doubt already aware, next year’s RCOG World Congress is taking place in May and will be a welcome return to a fully face-to-face event. We simply cannot wait to welcome you to London, where we hope to see as many of our friends and colleagues from around the world as possible. After several years being kept apart this event will truly be a wonderful celebration and an opportunity to reconnect, collaborate and be inspired once more. As you know, abstracts are an integral part of our Congress events and provide a unique global platform for doctors at all career stages to showcase their work. I am delighted to tell you abstract submission for next year’s event is officially open.
As I write this month’s blog I am travelling to another great event: the RCOG Scottish Committee’s annual conference. This meeting, like all our regional meetings, has suffered significantly during the pandemic but this year it will be up to full strength and I am really looking forward to it. This sort of travelling as a team around the UK is what we as Officers planned to do during our term but COVID had other plans for us. I even bought a map of the UK with the intention of putting pins in it to show where we had been. This invaluable accessory will be something I hand over to Ranee next month.
Since I last wrote to you I experienced my first ‘last of’ moments as President. I can’t quite believe how time has flown by in this role that quite frankly takes over one’s life in the most extraordinary way! This ‘last of’ moment was the last Council meeting of the current batch of Officers. It was also the meeting where we voted in the new team of Officers to work with Ranee. Those successful were Laura Hipple, Asma Khalil, Geeta Kumar, Ian Scudamore and Hassan Shehata. Well done to you all and I hope very much that you find your time in office as illuminating as we have. I know all the Officers will join me in wishing you the best of luck and our sincere hope that you don’t experience a global pandemic!