Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership
The start of 2022 for all of us working in healthcare has, for the second year in a row, been tinged by restrictions on our movements and by shortages of staff caused by colleagues being unwell or isolating with COVID-19.
From all the data we are seeing at the moment, we are most likely beyond the peak of the Omicron wave and, most importantly, the impact on our health services has been largely through people being unwell and unable to work rather than critically ill or dying from the disease.
Most experts feel the protection afforded to the nation’s health has been due to the vaccination and booster programme. The RCOG, as you know, has been working with the RCM, the CMOs and our colleagues in NHSEI and the devolved nations to communicate the benefits of the vaccine and harm from COVID-19 in pregnancy. Last week I was therefore delighted to see data published by UKHSA that shows the percentage of pregnant women who have received the vaccine has risen from 22.5% in August 2021 to 41.3% in October 2021. This has been a huge team effort and I would like to thank you for your contributions to this programme.
While as a College we feel very strongly that it is the professional responsibility of anyone working in a patient-facing role to be appropriately vaccinated, last week we wrote a statement asking the Government to reconsider introducing regulations on mandatory vaccination for healthcare staff at this time because of the potential impact on the safe delivery of maternity services. We were grateful that the Secretary of State has since paused the programme.
On Monday 28 February, less than a month away, it will be the second anniversary of the establishment of the COVID-19 guidance cell, and then the second anniversary of the first of many RCOG COVID guidelines on Tuesday 8 March. While the pandemic has gone on much longer than we could ever have imagined, I’m grateful to all our Members who have gone above and beyond to support the guidance development and vaccine roll-out, ensuring that O&G doctors worldwide have access to the most up-to-date information and advice to care for and support their patients through what we hope is the worst of the pandemic.
For me and my team of Officers, this will be the third February and March our term of office has been significantly affected by COVID-19, which also means that we have all started our final year as Officers. So now, strange though it feels after a presidency like no other, we now have to start the process of electing my successor. The election result for the President will be announced in June and the new Vice Presidents will be elected by Council in September. This is a very exciting time for the College and made more so because it is Members practicing in the UK and Republic of Ireland that vote for the President. I was the first RCOG President elected in this way and I believe this has strengthened the role through a greater sense of accountability to you, our Members and Fellows. Look out for all the materials that will come into your inbox in the coming weeks.
The past week has been a challenge in our day jobs and within the political landscape both home and abroad. We have heard that the UK switch to the provision of early medical abortion services to being delivered largely through a telemedicine service is being considered by the Secretary of State as a permanent move, one that we completely support. We also heard this week that there is a consultation around Vaginal Hormone Replacement Therapy being available in pharmacies without a prescription. As past Chair of the British Menopause Society this has been long called for and so the combined forces of the RCOG and BMS will be turning to you for your opinions during the consultation.
Last week it was a complete honour to have a discussion with our Patron, Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge, along with our Chief Executive, Kate Lancaster. This was requested by the Duchess to get up to speed with our work. As you may know, one of her main areas of interest is early years of life. I was hugely impressed at her knowledge of the work of the College and her understanding of how good maternal health preconception, during all stages of pregnancy and the postpartum period, provides the foundations for the best possible start to life. It was also lovely to hear her support for our profession and her recognition of our hard work and dedication to delivering the best of care, especially during the challenges of the pandemic.