Message from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health President

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Professor Russell Viner‘s weekly blog to members looks at how we protect and plan delivery of crucial paediatric services – including immunisations and for vulnerable children – in the context of an extended pandemic.

I want to start by saying thank you to everyone who joined the webinar on Monday. It was a pilot for us, but it seemed to go well. If you missed it, you can watch the recording on YouTube. We got more questions than we could answer in the time available but we’re working through responses this week. We’ll run another webinar very shortly and I will share the details in next week’s email.

Earlier in the week, the Chief Medical Officer for England said he believed we’re probably reaching the peak. It’s becoming clear that we may be in for a very long haul. I’m concerned that paediatric and child health services have been scaled back or interrupted to the point where it may have significant effects on health outcomes. As a College we need to work hard to protect crucial services and, as importantly, we must plan for how we deliver paediatric health services in the context of an extended pandemic. In the short term, I’m particularly concerned about immunisation and vulnerable children.

We need to do all we can to continue to identify [vulnerable] children, to connect them with the right support and keep them safe.

It is not just about late presentations, important though this issue is. Interruptions in care pathways have led to routine appointments being missed, and that’s not good news for our immunisation status. Even before COVID-19, we lost our measles-free status and on a range of health outcomes, we’ve been falling behind other European countries for quite a few years. We’re working on public messages for parents about the critical importance of keeping routine appointments for immunisation – I’ll have more to say on this next week.

Vulnerable children and the question of safeguarding are also emerging as an area of potential ‘collateral damage’. Children who are on a child protection plan of some sort may not be getting enough support or contact time. Similarly, we’re worried about the children whom we’re just not seeing due to lower referrals and limited capacity in the system. These are some of the most vulnerable young people in our society, and schools provide a vital role in identifying these children in normal circumstances. We need to do all we can to continue to identify these children, to connect them with the right support and keep them safe.

We’re also working very hard to build an evidence base about the impact of the pandemic on our systems and people who need them. The Impact of COVID-19 on Child Health Services data collection project has now been open for one week, and 37% of UK organisations have signed up. Authorised users can now see summary reports of the initial findings when they log in. We’re working hard behind the scenes to share findings on the RCPCH website, such as changes in service configuration, availability of PPE and testing for staff, so watch this space.

The NHS is talking about Restore and Recover as the keywords for getting our services working again. We will be working with the NHS across the four nations on doing this in ways that are equitable and in the best interests of children and young people.  For us we also have the old version of ‘R&R’ – ie Rest and Recuperation – very much in mind. This is becoming a marathon – your wellbeing is central to being able to restore or recover service and health for children.

That’s all for now. If you want to let us know about something that needs our attention, please do email the team at public.affairs@rcpch.ac.uk. Stay safe and well.



About the author


 Professor Russell Viner (UK) – Russell Viner is the President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. He is also Professor of Adolescent Health at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London, a paediatrician and adolescent physician working with young people with diabetes at University College Hospital and he directs the Department of Health Obesity Policy Research Unit. 







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