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Working Group: Parents in Surgery

In March 2021 we published the findings of the Kennedy Review, which looked into the diversity of the leadership of the surgical profession and of the College.

The experience of parents, who are training to be surgeons or are busy surgeons in practice, is extremely challenging and stressful; it demands urgent attention. A Task Force should be established to work with Deaneries, Trusts and Hospitals to address more supportive structures and career paths. The work of the Task Force should feed into the restructuring planned by government. 

Recommendation 8: Deliver a flagship project – Parents in Surgery

We have since published our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan which addresses the 16 recommendations made in the review. Please see here for the full report.

Within this Action Plan we set out our aims and next steps in relation to the recommendations. We recognise there are no ‘quick fixes’ but, as Council, Trustees and staff we have come together to produce this plan with an appetite for change.

The Parents in Surgery recommendation, as you will see in the report, is a flagship priority for the College and profession, and we have therefore set out an ambitious, but realistic, timeline for the first phase of this work.

For Surgeons and dentists with parental responsibilities to have the same access to and opportunities for training and development as those who are not parents.

Parents in Surgery project vision

Outcomes for the first phase

  1. Immediate review of the college policies and practices to ensure that they are suitable for working parents.
  2. Publication of research and recommendations in June 2022 on barriers to parent participation in surgery, with recommendations for any further change in College policy and practice, along with collaborations and advocacy we should undertake to effect changes in the policies and behaviour of other organisations (e.g. NHS trusts, HEE).

The first phase of this project will be a 90-day exploration resulting in a published report that details the barriers of parent participation in surgery along with any recommendations for change in policy or practice.

Volunteers will play a critical part during this first ‘explore’ phase.

Work will be split into three streams for this initial phase which are detailed below. We are therefore looking for individuals to commit to support one of these key areas. Individuals may choose a stream due to personal interest or simply the time commitment they have available to give. We will try and be as realistic with the amount of time that each stream may demand, but as we don’t know where our exploring may lead, it is important to note that this could flex as we learn more together.

Regardless of the stream and time that individuals are able to commit, we feel that it is vitally important that we listen to each of your personal experiences, either within a small group forum or privately. We want to hear from all – new parents, parents with older children, individuals that are planning their family, individuals that are in the pre-planning phase and individuals that don’t have plans for a family. This work is about inclusion and belonging, and everyone needs to feel that they have a voice within this area, no matter their personal circumstances, their opinions are valid and belong in this work. The Parents in Surgery recommendation has the ability to impact the entire surgical and dental workforce and we need to hear all voices to inform how we take the work forwards.

Volunteers will support College staff in three streams of work in the initial phase. All three streams will include virtual meetings and discussion forums with the working group or smaller groups. Recordings could be made available for those that cannot make the time/date of the live meetings. We will try to accommodate out-of-hours meetings where appropriate.

The three streams are defined as:

1. Defining our statement of truth

This stream will work on defining what we are trying to achieve, alongside a set of statements and language considerations that we will present as recommendations for the College to adopt. An example of what some of the discussions may involve are:  

  • What is our 'truth'? An example might be, parents in surgery is not a ‘women’s issue’, it is a ‘workforce issue’.
  • Identifying areas that our truth might impact. For instance, parents in surgery is not a ‘women’s issue’ might bring up discussions around gender pay gap, pensions, LTFT, maternity/ paternity policies etc.
  • Who ‘owns’ those issues and policy and where can we influence?
  • What language are we happy with and what impact does that language have?  
  • What is our overall project mission? What is it we are we trying to achieve and what does that look like? 

We anticipate that individuals may need to commit to approximately 6–8 hours of their time, over a 12-week period (up to 20 December 2021) to support this stream. 

2. Undertaking an internal audit

This stream will look at how we, as a College, measure up to our defined beliefs/ truths and will look to compile a list of recommendations for change.

Alongside this, the audit will look at areas such as, but not limited to:

  • The College’s course, event and exam provisions for parents.
  • Membership, both in terms of the benefit specifically to parents and member fees.
  • Accessibility to the building etc. 

We anticipate that individuals may need to commit to approximately 10–15 hours of their time, over a 12-week period (up to 20 December 2021) to support this stream.

This stream will also require the individual(s) to undertake some solo study into a specific area and report on their findings so that any key themes can be identified and a set of fuller recommendations for change to be outlined.

3. Exploring and researching

This stream will focus predominantly on research and what questions we need to work towards answering. This will involve looking at the working practices of the profession, policies, procedures and culture. It will be essential to talk to different teams, different career levels, and specialties (including dental) to try and understand the nuances of being a parent for individuals in different environments or circumstances. Discussions will focus on exploring some of the themes that come from investigations and identifying where it is best to focus energy for that specific theme (i.e. is that board level, HR, culture, policy etc.).  

Members of this working group will also help to identify and look into organisations such as HEE and NHS trusts that will be key stakeholders to work with on promoting and advocating any wider change.

This is the most time-consuming stream, but a vitally key component to the success of this work. We anticipate that individuals may need to commit to approximately 24–30 hours of their time, over a 12-week period (up to 20 December 2021) to support this stream. 

This stream will also require the individual(s) to have discussions with colleagues or peers and report any key or reoccurring themes so we are able to build up a picture of the subtleties to parenthood across the profession.

Support, reward and recognition

A team channel will be set up for individuals to have peer support and work on shared documents. We will work with members of each stream/working group as to what would be preferable to them in terms of keeping up to date with the overall progress of the project phase. The streams will be managed by RCS England staff and will be overseen by Council member Fiona Myint.

The end of this phase results in published research and recommendations. Individuals that contribute to this phase can choose to have their name acknowledged within the published findings.

How to register interest and get involved

First and foremost, we thank you for the time you have given so far in expressing an interest in this project. We are already very grateful for the emails of support from members advocating change in this area. It is very humbling and encouraging to know that getting this right will improve the work and personal lives of so many individuals and pave the way for so many more in the future.    

We are looking for individuals that share this passion for change within the surgical and dental workforces. Beyond this we don’t require any other qualifications, you do not have to be a parent in surgery to be impacted by this subject and so we welcome your voice.

For more details or to have an informal and confidential discussion about your experiences around this topic that may help inform this work please contact Rebecca Martin.

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