In this latest blog by the RCOG President, Ranee Thakar, find out about exciting opportunities to get involved in shaping the work of the RCOG, and highlights from the College’s work to support your professional development…
Hello, and welcome to my September blog.
Our members are the College’s heartbeat, playing a critical role in achieving our mission of improving the health of women and girls around the world. Almost every area of College business is supported by the expertise of our generous clinical volunteers from around the world, including our Board, committees, guidelines, events, exams and advisory groups, and other vital areas.
I truly do appreciate the contribution of every volunteer. Participating in College work can be personally rewarding, supports career development and offers the chance to shape future RCOG priorities... your priorities. I want to ensure our members’ voices are represented in everything we do, so I warmly encourage you to take up one of the extensive varieties of volunteering opportunities.
I also wanted to highlight a new section on our website, developed to make it easier to access the wide variety of member benefits we offer. You will find many resources to support your physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as essential skills and training resources needed throughout your professional life - all informed by data and research with members. You can find this all on our refreshed membership benefits page.
Over the last two months, I have continued to travel representing the College and the profession. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of my role, speaking first-hand to members across the world about the issues that matter to you.
Just this week, I had the privilege of visiting my home country of India, to admit more than 90 new Fellows and Members at a wonderful ceremony in New Delhi and attend the 36th All India Coordinating Committee (AICC) Annual Conference. Sincere thanks to the organisation committee for creating such a wonderful programme, with a fantastic mix of Indian and international faculty bringing together the best of the East and the West. It was fantastic to speak to so many people at the conference, to gain an even better insight into the needs of our members in India.
Earlier this month, I also travelled to meet with our Singapore O&G community and to Malaysia to host an admission ceremony welcoming 70 new Fellows and Members. We are immensely proud of our longstanding relationships with both countries, and so pleased to see our esteemed global community expanding.
The MRCOG is internationally recognised as the gold standard qualification in our profession and, through our ambitious digital transformation programme, we remain focused on expanding exciting career development opportunities globally. Around 8,000 candidates now sit our membership exams every year, with MRCOG Part 1 and Part 2 offered through 450 test centres in 55 countries!
Critically, as well as providing candidates with more choice and flexibility about when and where they can sit exams, this is also significantly reducing the carbon footprint related to candidate travel. The College has made great strides in making our operations more sustainable, and this is a key focus for my Presidency. I am proud to have recently been elected as a Trustee of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, UKHACC, to champion climate action for a healthier future for women and girls.
Work to support our members’ professional development across many key areas continues at pace. I am pleased to confirm we have now submitted our revised 2024 RCOG curricula to the General Medical Council (GMC), following our Advanced Training Review. This represents the culmination of three years’ work, and I am grateful to the membership and external stakeholders for contributing. The GMC response is expected in December 2023.
The RCOG Speciality Specific Guidance for the new Portfolio Pathway was also recently approved by RCOG Council and the GMC. This new framework will provide more flexibility for candidates, assessing applicants on their knowledge, skills and experience against the O&G curriculum high-level learning outcomes. We will be the first College to publish this new guidance.
Additionally, work is underway to make the College’s CPD ePortfolio more flexible, including updating CPD online resources on the RCOG Learning platform. Excitingly, we are also now partnering with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) to provide their 6,000 members with access to RCOG Learning resources.
In other exam news, a new MRCOG bite-size video series has recently been created to give potential candidates key information about the exam journey, with further instalments to come. An MRCOG promotional toolkit has also been developed to help you share information in your local networks, places of work and education establishments. I would encourage you to take a look at these fantastic new resources. The toolkit is available here and the video series is here.
Back in London, this month we hosted two membership ceremonies in our Union Street home, welcoming more than 160 new Fellows and Members into the College. I had the pleasure of unveiling a portrait of our wonderful recent past President Dr Eddie Morris. This has now joined the Union Street collection of all our esteemed past Presidents’ portraits, which we warmly invite members to visit when in London.
While I am proud of all the work above, I recognise these are very difficult times for our members. In the UK, industrial action continues, with health professionals across the NHS are working tirelessly to manage unprecedented levels of demand with significant workforce shortage. Just a few weeks ago, harrowing accounts of sexual assault experienced by female surgeons were reported – and the College issued a statement condemning these appalling behaviours. We must all play a role in building a zero-tolerance culture within our specialty. Find information on support for members here.
With Black History Month in October, this is also a timely opportunity for me to re-state my absolute commitment to tackling the racial and ethnic inequities that persist in our specialty, as well as in women’s health outcomes and experiences of care. The recent RCOG workshops and survey exploring ethnic minority doctors and healthcare professionals’ experiences around differential attainment will inform future College action. Read more about the College’s ambition for race equality, and find out about RCOG’s activity through Black History Month.
As I meet and talk to colleagues across the world it is clear that, despite the challenges we all face as health professionals, we collectively recognise the incredible privilege we have caring for women and girls through their lives. I am pleased to be able to share some highlights on our critical work towards this important shared mission.
The RCOG published a new report titled Getting Back on Track, released in Parliament in July, making a clear case for renewed investment sexual and reproductive health and rights by the UK Government. The decision to cut overseas development assistance from 0.7% of Gross National Income to 0.5% in 2020 has had devastating consequences for global SRHR services and the women and girls who rely on them, and we will continue to advocate in this area. You can read the parliamentary debate or watch it here, and read the full Getting Back on Track report.
In a second visit to Parliament, in September I was delighted to speak about our OASI care bundle at the newly-established All Party Parliamentary Group on Birth Trauma. This is an issue that I am so passionate about, so I am delighted the recently updated NICE guidance: Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies includes a recommendation that all women who have had a vaginal birth should be offered a post-birth rectal examination.
Supporting the provision of safe, personalised and compassionate care is at the heart of so much of what the College does, and I wanted to draw your attention to the Patient safety hub. Also, to the informed consent for gynaecological examinations under anaesthesia, recently updated to emphasise that a vital part of an informed consenting process is being explicit about physical examinations that will take place under general anaesthetic, for example at the start of a laparoscopy.
It feels like this year is flying by and, as we head into autumn, the RCOG will be encouraging pregnant women in the UK to get their flu and COVID-19 vaccines to offer themselves and their babies the best protection. The RCOG played a key role through in advocating for pregnant women through the pandemic and will continue to promote information through our channels to support women to say yes to the vaccine this year.
On a final note, I was deeply saddened to hear about the recent passing of Professor Linda Cardozo OBE. Linda made an incredible contribution to women’s health and to the College through her career, for which she was awarded a Fellowship of the RCOG. She was my friend, my mentor and I will miss her dearly. Our thoughts are with her family, friends, and all those who worked closely with Linda throughout her career.
With very best wishes,
Ranee Thakar, RCOG President