President Tony Falconer FRCOG 018RCOG President Dr Tony Falconer writes…

This has been an incredibly busy week. The Officers and I have been at FIGO’s Annual Congress  in the Eternal City, Rome. The scientific programme has been excellent, with many inspiring sessions, and it has been useful catching up with colleagues from other countries.

This international gathering of healthcare professionals offers us the opportunity to network, share, reflect and learn. Discussions about maternal mortality and our MDG commitments will always be close to my heart and have been very fruitful.

We’d arranged to meet with other national O&G societies including colleagues from Argentina, India, Peru and Vietnam. Very productive meetings took place and common areas of interest were discussed, such as how we can help improve clinical standards and training in these countries.  

At the same time, the Conservative Party Conference was taking place in Birmingham. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt delivered his speech two days ago. As the new man in the job, it was eagerly anticipated and the news agenda was  full of stories about his announcements and performance.  Received opinion is that it was a success. He was concise and to the point.

There was talk about ensuring universal provision to allay fears of the dreaded beast of unfettered privatisation. He spoke about the key areas of concern for him such as better provision of dementia and elderly care.  He paid tribute to his predecessor Andrew Lansley whom he recognised as the architect of reform and revealed that his test is to ‘transform the culture of the system’ so that clinical engagement and management improve and the NHS delivers a better service.

I am particularly reassured to hear about the focus on elderly care. They are sometimes a forgotten group of patients but their health needs are no less important. The care of menopausal and postmenopausal women needs to be delivered regardless of whether the NHS has to make its efficiency savings.  This is in light of the growing numbers of retirees every year. Demand for healthcare for the elderly will no doubt increase in years to come.

There is also the need to examine the kind of care offered and whether these are appropriate to them.  All too often, patients are referred to specialist care and go though every form of screening, risk assessment and intervention. This perhaps a sign of the NHS’s success; that patients receive high quality care regardless. However, we sometimes forget to ask if they want such care and if, indeed, more conservative treatment is the better option.

As a starting point, we need to adopt the life-course approach and this will ensure that women in the later years are still cared for in the manner that is acceptable to them.  I draw to your attention to the British Menopause Society’s statement Modernising the NHS: observations and recommendations from the British Menopause Society published last year on the care of women in their 50s and beyond. The Department of Health should take note of these very sensible policy recommendations.

In the meantime, the new International Development minister Justine Greening made her speech yesterday on DFID’s commitment to international aid.  Her department, we were told, will focus on research and transparency to ensure that money spent on humanitarian programmes is spent wisely and delivers tangible results. But more importantly, I was very pleased about the recognition paid to the courage of women in under-resourced countries who remain undaunted by the difficulties they face. I quote from her speech:

“…And perhaps development matters most to women. It is women who die in childbirth because they don’t have the medical care they need. It is women who bear the brunt of stagnant economies, losing out on work opportunities first. And it is women who struggle for an equal voice and participation in too many societies and governments…”

The International Development Secretary must be congratulated for acknowledging the crucial role of women in society and for placing them firmly at the heart of DFID’s agenda.

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