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

I was very privileged to preside over last Friday’s admissions ceremony where we welcomed our new fellows.  It was a special occasion, made more special by the august company present that day.

To an outsider, being made a fellow of a royal medical college is seen, rather erroneously might I add, as a pat on the back, as if to say; “You are one of us now, there you go, here are the keys to the club room…”

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are no secret handshakes, no ancient oaths.

Rather, fellowship is mark of senior standing and recognition that an individual has made a significant contribution to the specialty through their clinical work, research, teaching, publishing or a combination of these activities. It is something to be proud of, something to celebrate.   

Working in the NHS as a consultant these days involves multidisciplinary teamwork, keeping abreast with new technologies and no small amount of management. We are not just doctors. Many of our fellows immerse themselves in work for the greater good whether it is with the Department of Health, NICE or a similar health or medical body. Such extra work, most of which is voluntary, requires commitment, diplomacy and skill and our fellows are all exemplars of the dedication and progressiveness that characterises everything that is good about the NHS.

Similarly, our colleagues working outside the UK have provided evidence of extraordinary leadership skills, furthering the cause of women through advocacy, teaching and improvements in clinical services, often in very trying circumstances.

It was also an honour for me to award Fellows ad eudem to our distinguished guests. This unique category is for doctors who are not members of the College. They have been chosen because they have done pioneering, innovative work; advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology, in most cases internationally. The achievements of our new FAEs are impressive as it is humbling.

It was clear to me that what each of these fellows demonstrates is medical leadership and this is a rare quality that must be encouraged and cultivated.

Two weeks ago, we released the report Tomorrow’s Specialist . In this document, we argued that the NHS must change in order to deliver better care. This does not conflict with the present desire in the draft NHS Mandate  to provide high quality care based on good clinical outcomes. At the centre of this change is the patient, the women  we serve. And in order to enact this change, we must first look at what we must do within the specialty so that women get the services they need and want.

We have said this in the past – we need to move to a consultant-delivered service and end the over-reliance we have on our doctors-in-training. This will provide them with the clinical supervision they need to become excellent doctors. This is how we, as a College, can show leadership and it is the responsibility of every consultant to ensure that future generations of doctors are well trained and well supported throughout their careers. Revalidation is one such method  which we have been feeding in to.

Indeed, the new Health and Social Care Act will allow for such leadership through its aspiration to put clinicians at the very helm of care. The NHS Commissioning Board and the Clinical Commissioning Groups are the instruments of such change and we gather that greater prominence will be given to women’s health services in future. This is very welcome news and the College will do what it can to advise on the right structures and systems to provide services for women. The other challenge of course is ensuring we have the right people to lead this change.

Who will step forward?

The RCOG will keep a watching brief and notify members when opportunities arise. Watch this space.