Dr Eddie Morris writes to the membership
The observant of you will have noticed that this month’s blog is later than you would normally expect from me. Two things conspired, one positive and one quite a bit less so. Getting the negative out of the way first, I picked up COVID again about two weeks ago.
You might remember the other time I got COVID was at the very beginning of the pandemic. Unvaccinated, relatively poorly - and also infected at the same time our Prime Minister was in HDU with the same infection - was a pretty anxiety-provoking time, as I know it was for many during the early days of the pandemic. This time, though, it was more like a bad version of a cold, but still knocked me sideways more than a cold does.
This bout of COVID has reinforced to me that we still can’t take our eyes off the ball in terms of ensuring all of us in health-related roles remain vaccinated and promote vaccination to those that need it most, guided by the evidence and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). It also convinced me that we still need to collect data on the outcomes of COVID in pregnancy. While the body of research grows every day, there is still much to learn about how Omicron and its various subtypes affects pregnancy, and so it will remain our professional responsibility to make the most of the data as it appears but also to ensure that we promote vaccination in pregnancy.
Although this blog is a little later than normal, the good news is the delay has enabled me to provide some reflections on our 2022 RCOG World Congress, which has just finished a three-day run. When we started planning this Congress the UK was in the wave of the Delta variant of COVID and the benefits of the vaccination were becoming apparent. We felt that a hybrid conference would be the most appropriate for this year’s event, and we are delighted it appears to have delivered on all fronts.
It was wonderful to welcome around 500 delegates each day to our new home, but also to see 3,100 delegates from 82 different countries joining us virtually each day. Amongst the delegates were 614 Ukrainian obstetricians and gynaecologists who were offered free places as part of our support to their training during the war in Ukraine.
As was the case for our virtual Congress last year, everyone who registered for this year’s event has access to the materials for the coming months. We will soon be offering some of the content online for free and also opening our post-event sale, allowing those who weren’t able to join us live to purchase all of the world-class educational content. We also published daily summaries from Congress: day one, day two and day three.
Being back together I found so refreshing – making those connections both new and old, and finally seeing people in 3D after years apart. We are all social beings and need such contact, and to this end we will be arranging next year’s Congress with a larger face-to-face element. We will soon release details so you can hold the dates.
The content of Congress was as cutting edge as usual, organised by a fantastic team of clinicians and RCOG staff to whom I am very grateful. We had over 1,500 abstracts, and were supported by the UK specialist societies in organising the specialist streams along with some of the best keynote speakers, including Prof Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific advisor to the DHSC, Prof Dame Jane Dacre and Dr Ann Kihara, President elect of FIGO. We also had moving sessions on Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Ukraine, Women's healthcare in today’s Afghanistan, and the care of migrant women and asylum seekers. These sessions will be available free of charge, and I do recommend you view them if you can.
One session that I was particularly pleased to chair was focussed on the environment and the contribution of the NHS and all that we do on the carbon dioxide emissions of the UK. We heard from Nick Watts, NHSE Chief Sustainability Officer, that the work of the NHS accounts for 5% of UK total emissions and Nitrous Oxide use accounts for 1%. Following the Congress I have started work on this issue with the Royal College of Midwives and the three bodies representing our anaesthetic colleagues. More can be found out about the work of Nick Watts here.
Finally this month, you won’t have missed the fact that my successor was elected. I am delighted that Senior Vice President Ranee Thakar was elected to be the 32nd President and third female President of the RCOG. Ranee will be a fantastic President, and I look forward to working with her as I hand over the reins over the next six months. I would also like to thank the unsuccessful candidates, Jo Mountfield, Pat O’Brien and Alison Wright for standing. Being an election candidate is a very big challenge and I am grateful to them all. I would finally like to thank all of you who voted. It was our biggest turnout so far and really shows that more of you feel a greater connection with this College and want to be part of the future of the RCOG.
Nominations for five new Vice Presidents (Officers) open on 29 June and I encourage you, if you are eligible to stand, to considering doing so. Working alongside the President, the Officers contribute their personal and professional expertise to help maintain the College’s standards of clinical excellence. More details on the Vice President Election process and how to apply will be published in the coming days.