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Feature Profile

RCPCH’s Russell Viner: “The NHS does not prioritise children’s health”

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 14 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2073
  1. Jennifer Richardson, features editor, The BMJ
  1. London, UK
  1. jrichardson{at}

The college’s new president is frustrated by the NHS’s unconscious bias against young people, finds Jennifer Richardson, and has a paediatrician recruitment crisis to tackle

“Sitting in a room hearing about a new strategy and waiting for children to be mentioned—and then them not being mentioned,” is my biggest frustration, Russell Viner tells me. It is the thing he would most like to change in his new role as president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

Softly spoken, with a barely perceptible Australian twang (he has been in the UK for a quarter of a century; “I think I may be the first overseas trained president of the college”), he talks of his role in two halves: one, for his paediatrician members and, two, for the children and young people they doctor.

“As far as I know, no other college is named for the area, the client group… colleges tend to be named for the surgeons or physicians,” Viner says. “So we’re both a membership organisation and the leading voice for children and young people’s health in the UK.”

This split is reflected in his early priorities for his tenure, which began on 15 March; the two things he would most like to see within his first year are “a definite turn up in our ST1 fill rates” and “seeing children’s health strategies in Scotland and Wales come to fruition, and England committing to that.”

Recruitment-morale spiral

Both speak of the issues that form the backdrop to Viner’s ascendance. On the former, he takes the reins after the college’s worst ever year for take-up of trainee posts, resulting in it having to readvertise ST1 posts and running a second round of interviews for the first time1; he points out …

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