Our work to reach more women around the world and influence key decision makers paid huge dividends in 2016.
Raising our profile
In order to truly advocate for women and become a more powerful lobbying force we realised that we needed to increase our external profile and influence. We recruited and trained more expert clinical spokespeople to represent the College on a range of issues and introduced 22 case studies from women talking about their experiences to complement our media work.
Our strengthened Policy and Public Affairs team expanded its stakeholder activities in 2016, taking part in a range of closed discussions including the Department of Health’s Equalities and Vulnerable Groups meetings. We also participated in a cross-departmental working group to develop a national service specification for abortion care and worked with the RCOG’s Clinical Quality team, Department of Health, Public Health England and Health Promotion Scotland to produce clinical guidelines on the management of the Zika virus in pregnant women.
We continued to advise government and the NHS on issues including abortion, female genital mutilation, maternal mental health and urogynaecological conditions. We understand the need to work closely with other organisations. We successfully collaborated with the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, other charities and women themselves to compile a report on women’s experiences of access to perinatal mental health care. Our Policy and Public Affairs team is working closely with the Women’s Network to launch a Health Policy Forum which will help us engage better with women, including those covered by the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010.
- Spoken out in political debates including the junior doctor dispute
- Made submissions to some controversial consultations including the Nuffield Bioethics Council on non-invasive prenatal testing, the Government’s consultation on child sexual exploitation and the House of Lords inquiry into NHS sustainability
- Submitted evidence to the Health Select committee and London Assembly on maternity services
- Briefed Peers about the College’s position on abortions up to full term
Scaling up our work in the media and on social media has allowed us to reach more women than ever before. Our new President Lesley Regan led the way with interviews in several national newspapers, magazines and radio programmes and our Media and PR team accepted over 100 interviews and secured more than 16,000 articles in the media, reaching an estimated 290 million people.
The volume of coverage peaked with the launch of the Each Baby Counts report and the RCOG World Congress, new guidelines on ectopic pregnancies and managing nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, and an announcement on maternity services by the Health Secretary.
Our social media activity, which included 1,700 tweets, covered a wide range of College activities including our National Trainees Conference and International Day to End Obstetric Fistula.
Our courses and conferences had a very successful year with more than 5,000 delegates attending 84 courses in the UK. The highlight was the RCOG World Congress in Birmingham with a record-breaking 2,651 people attending from 71 countries. Of these, 62% were Fellows and Members and 27% Trainees. The event, which included a moving speech on Fair Society by Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the Institute of Human Equity, was a great success with 85%of delegates extremely or fairly likely to recommend the event to a colleague.
Our story continues
Our recently published report on perinatal mental health care has helped us to raise our profile and influence. We will continue to invest in our external profile to improve health care for women around the world and evolve our resources and services for members. The coming year will see us develop our work on gender identity and the care of undocumented pregnant migrants. The College will continue to evolve and this is reflected in the fact that we have started the process of leaving our base in Sussex Place to move to new premises in London, a project which will take up to three years to complete.
We responded to 775 media enquiries
We now have 100 spokespeople to comment on a variety of topics in O&G
1.76 million users visited our website rcog.org.uk in 2016
86,933 visitors to our website from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in 2016
In my view the original contract was unsafe and unfair. Although it could be better, I believe the new contract has a lot of positives. The next steps will be to ensure that this new contract works in practice to benefit trainees, training and, ultimately, patients.
Matthew Prior, Chair of the RCOG’s Trainees' committee, speaking about the junior doctor dispute
“Being a spokesperson has been an amazing experience”
Consultant obstetrician Daghni Rajasingam has been a spokesperson for the College for the last 13 years and is fully supportive of the move to be more robust in speaking up for the profession and for women’s health.
“The College has become much more proactive in its interactions with the media and is looking to increase its profile further, which is excellent. It’s partly about getting important health messages out to women, but also becoming the go-to organisation for decision makers and to influence national and international policy.
“It’s also about sharing some of the good practice we have and learning from other people and healthcare systems. When an organisation’s profile is raised, the networks and relationships that you have developed are strengthened, and that enables you to have more influence.
“I think I may be one of the longest standing official spokespeople for the College. When I started, we were very keen to get the women’s health message out there and to raise the profile of women’s health around the world.
“One of the reasons that I got involved was to try to mitigate the traditional view people had of the Royal Colleges. As a female of BAME origin, I wanted to demonstrate that the College was making significant strides to be more inclusive.
“Being a spokesperson, particularly on medical conditions in pregnancy like diabetes and also for vulnerable women like asylum seekers, has truly been an amazing experience. We had media training at the beginning which was hugely helpful. It’s been interesting, not just learning how to do it, but also understanding what drives the media and how to get important health messages out there which are not always the key messages the media wants, like the fact that women should be in the best possible health before embarking on a pregnancy.
“I’ve done pretty much the whole spectrum of media work over the years, including live TV interviews and chat show programmes, but some of my most challenging and enjoyable experiences have been on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour; they really do explore the subjects in detail. There’s an important responsibility for healthcare professionals in any media interaction to inform the public and, if there are incorrect perceptions of things, to try to right them.
“It’s wonderful to be able to speak on behalf of the College and, as a global organisation, the media helps us to reach women around the world and highlight issues such as the fact that women are dying due to a lack of health care. I look forward to continuing as a spokesperson in the future and would encourage other colleagues to come forward too.”
Get Involved with the RCOG
There are many opportunities to get involved with the College. We actively seek the help and support of our members, other healthcare professionals and the public as we work to improve women’s health care worldwide through education, training and improving clinical quality. Find out how you could get involved.