In this latest blog by the RCOG President, Ranee Thakar, find out about her highlights from 2023 and an amazing first year as RCOG President, as well as ambitious plans for 2024, and the wealth of opportunities for Fellows and Members to get involved in shaping the vital work of the College…
Hello and welcome to my December blog.
As we approach the end of 2023, I wanted to start my final blog of the year by thanking our Fellows and Members of the College across the world for the vital work you do caring for women and girls. My thanks also go to my brilliant team of Officers for their incredible leadership, and to everyone that has volunteered their expertise and time to support the College’s work this year. I am also very grateful to the College’s staff for their dedication and incredible work.
When I took up the post of President in December 2022, past College Presidents told me that my term would go quickly. They were absolutely right, and I can hardly believe twelve months have flown by so fast. One of the things I have enjoyed most is having the opportunity to meet with members, at visits, ceremonies, scientific meetings and many other occasions this year. My conversations with you are endlessly inspiring and, while these continue to be difficult times for health systems across the globe, the College’s resilient membership fills me with optimism.
I wanted to touch on some highlights from 2023. These include welcoming over 1,500 new members to the College at twelve member ceremonies this year, as well as the incredible RCOG annual conference with delegates from 84 countries attending. In total, over 6,000 people attended RCOG events this year!
We truly are a global College, and recognising this, I have been pleased to see the continued expansion of global MRCOG accreditation partnerships, including India, Dubai and Malaysia this year. I also hope all our members are benefitting from the fantastic new RCOG Learning website, expanding access to our education and professional development resources across the world.
We continued to focus on the O&G curriculum, with significant work delivered on our Advanced Training Review programme, with members’ input. The RCOG was also the first College approved to use the new GMC portfolio pathway process. Looking at our exam diet, we saw strong candidate numbers this year and are increasing the places available at test centres worldwide in 2024 to meet demand – a welcome sign that the pandemic is behind us.
I am proud of the impact our Centre for Global Women’s Health has continued to have, delivering our Making Abortion Safe and Gynaecology Health Matters programmes and publishing important reports on the case for Oversees Development Aid to support sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the burden of gynaecological disease for women in low and middle income countries. Partnership working is so critical, and I am delighted to congratulate RCOG Fellow Eunice Brookman-Amissah on receiving the Right Livelihood Award in recognition of her pivotal role in increasing women’s access to safe abortion in Africa and her outstanding advocacy for the RCOG programme.
Equally, supporting safe, compassionate and personalised maternity care was a critical focus in 2023. This year, I was delighted our OASI Care Bundle was included in the new Pelvic Health Service Specification, which will support its’ widespread adoption. The new RCOG Maternity Triage Good Practice Paper published this month now provides clear recommendations on responsive, safe and evidence-based care, to address issues being identified in inspections. Our Improving the Quality of Women’s Healthcare conference received fantastic feedback, and webinars on advances in maternal medicine, intrapartum fetal heart monitoring, perinatal mental health were attended by thousands of members.
Just this month, the College also launched our new maternity safety resource hub. This draws together the significant breadth of our resources and activities, to aid members and wider maternity staff in reinforcing learning, supporting improvement areas and ultimately delivering safer maternity care.
These are just a few of our collective achievements, which we could not have delivered without the support of Members and Fellows volunteering their time and expertise. I hope you feel, as I do, a sense of pride in our global O&G community as we deliver our mission to improve the lives of women and girls.
Looking ahead to 2024, we are absolutely committed to working with our Fellows and Members, and partners, to support UK maternity care innovation and improvement as a priority. The system is stretched to its limit and, from my conversations with members and visits to local services, I know how much this is affecting the wellbeing and mental health of our members. You have also told me how maternity safety inspections are affecting maternity team morale, and last week I met with CQC leaders to discuss and look at how we can work with them on this important issue next year.
Safe staffing levels are at the heart of delivering improvements, as too often at the moment shortages mean teams are spread too thin and quality of care is impacted. We are waiting for the Department of Health and Social Care to confirm next steps on our obstetrics workforce staffing tool, to make this available for services for future workforce planning. We will continue to use all levers at our disposal to lobby for sustained, sufficient Government investment to address pressures.
Across next year, I am also committed to meaningful action on tackling racism in the O&G workforce, building on the legacy of our Race Equality Taskforce. Taking this work forward, the RCOG is developing an action plan targeting the attainment gap and working towards achieving fair training cultures. We will continue to work hard to listen to the lived experience of members, and to act on this. Learn more about this important work.
Under my Presidency, I am also committed to supporting our membership to respond to the climate crisis. The RCOG has released a three-part Climate and health course to facilitate understanding of sustainable clinical practise. The College has also been involved in advocacy work and collaborative projects, including the recently published Green Surgery Report, providing an evidence-based guide and recommendations on mitigating the carbon footprint associated with surgical practice. Read more about our future plans and past work.
Since we published Left for too Long in April 2022, waiting lists in gynaecology have continued to grow disproportionately, and as a College we will continue to call for action for equitable recovery and transformation of services. Next year, our policy team will be reaching out to hear from our members’ working in gynaecology, and from women who are currently waiting for care, so we can improve understanding of the serious impact of gynaecological conditions in the health system, and identify solutions to improve women’s access to and experiences of care.
Given the challenges faced by our specialism, I am often asked if I am optimistic about the future of O&G care - and my answer is always yes! I know first-hand how committed our members are to caring for women and girls, and I believe that solutions are often found on the front line. It was a real pleasure to join the UK Clinical Directors Forum in November for a fantastic exchange of ideas and an opportunity to hear how best the College can support our members in their day to day roles. My fellow Officers and I look forward to continuing to visit Trusts over next year, to hear from those delivering local maternity and gynaecology services.
I would also warmly encourage you to consider how you can get involved with the College’s work in 2024. There are a wealth of opportunities to do this, which you can find out about on our website. This includes joining College committees, and we are currently recruiting for new members to join our education, exams, global health and clinical quality committees. These are fantastic forums that are at the heart of the College’s vital work. You might also enjoy reading the blog from the trainees who attended the Five Countries meeting in September 2023 as part of their trainee bursary.
I wanted to take this opportunity to promote the current UK Government consultation on proposed action to protect future generations from the harms of smoking, by creating the first smoke-free generation. You can contribute your views. Also, for our members in the UK, I would encourage you to take up the offer of flu and COVID-19 vaccination, to keep yourselves and the people you care for safe this winter.
Finally, on a personal note, I was thrilled and honoured to receive the President’s Award for outstanding leadership from the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and the BSUG Lifetime Achievement Award, this year. I want to extend my gratitude to the incredible colleagues and teams that have worked alongside me over the years. It’s been a remarkable journey from completing my medical training in India thirty years ago to today, holding the prestigious office of RCOG President. As the first woman of colour to hold this role, I am optimistic that the medical playing field is levelling and that there truly is room for everyone. With hard work and good mentors, there is no limit to what one can achieve!
It has truly been an amazing first year as RCOG President, and I have been proud to represent our specialties and shine a light on the invaluable work you do every day. I look forward to continuing to do so in 2024.
With very best wishes,
Ranee Thakar, RCOG President