Choosing a sustainable future

1 October 2021

Picture this…

1st October 2030. You arrive at work energised after your half-hour commute on e-bike. There are far more cycles than cars on the road since the council completed its safe active travel routes. The air is noticeably cleaner and the part of the city where you work is so much greener thanks to investments to reduce health inequalities through nature-based prescribing.

You enter the thriving community hub of your practice where patients can connect to community activities as well as access social support. This morning you are facilitating group clinics which have transformed patient outcomes and workload around long-term conditions. You find they are a joyful and empowering experience for all.

You reflect on how less than a decade ago, work was reactive, relentless and overwhelming. You even considered leaving the job you loved. But then around the time of COP26 in 2021, a great transformation began.

We finally understood the huge health consequences of the climate and ecological crisis and recognised the need to take urgent action towards a Green New Deal for health. Practices embraced opportunities for greener practice and realised the immediate benefits to patient health.

We chose a sustainable future. Today you feel hope.

Post written by

Dr Aarti Bansal

Dr Aarti Bansal is a GP in Sheffield, a medical educator and a nationally-elected RCGP Council member. She is the founder of the Greener Practice primary care climate and sustainability network and is working with the Health Foundation and the Humber Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership to support net-zero primary care.

Latest updates from your College Chair Martin Marshall

College Council

Last Friday was Council, our first ever ‘hybrid’ meeting, with around 40 members in person at 30 Euston Square and others joining in remotely. It worked really well and it was great to see colleagues after such a long time.

As you can imagine, proceedings kicked off with an impassioned debate about the current onslaught against GPs we are seeing in some sections of the media and by some MPs.

Council members shared stories about the impact the negativity is having on their colleagues in general practice, and the negative impact it’s having on GP-patient relationships.

As a College we will continue to defend the profession against undue, unfair and dangerous criticism. This week I penned a blog with Saffron Cordery, Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers published in the Independent on the importance of the medical profession sticking together in the face of this adversity. It talks about how those in positions of power have a duty to put out realistic messages to the public about the care that can be provided to them with limited resources. There has also been support from the NHS Confederation and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which has been welcome. You might have also seen our response to House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg’s completely divisive comments on Twitter earlier this week.

At Council we also had incredibly rich discussions about the role of non-GP doctors in primary care - something that after a good discussion we’re thinking about how to take forward; solutions to tackling ‘undoable’ workload in general practice which we will continue to develop, and an excellent position statement originating from RCGP Scotland on drug misuse was passed at a national level.

You can catch up on the detail of the discussions by searching #RCGPCouncil on Twitter.

Labour Party Conference

The College attended the Labour Party Conference earlier this week, hosting a fringe event alongside the BMA, to look at how to address the workforce and workload challenges facing general practice. Denis Campbell from the Guardian chaired an insightful discussion between myself, BMA Chair Chaand Nagpaul, Anita Charlesworth of the Health Foundation and Shadow Health Minister for Primary Care Alex Norris.

It was generally agreed that the challenges we face are huge but not insurmountable - and while workforce is the key issue to address, it is a long term solution and short term fixes are needed now. Some of these include reducing unnecessary workload - something I already put to Health Secretary Sajid Javid last week - by suspending QOF and easing regulatory duties, and looking at how we can work better with secondary care colleagues to avoid duplication of, and streamline, work.

I also attended a number of interesting roundtable events and met with several Labour MPs to discuss the issues facing our profession. I’m pleased to say most were receptive to our plight and want to work to improve it, and the service that is offered to patients.

I’ll also be attending the Conservative Party Conference to represent and be a voice advocating for general practice this coming week. Our fringe event will be taking place inside the secure zone, so a pass is required to attend, next Tuesday from 13:00-14:15 in Central 7, Manchester Central. The event will be live streamed, so keep an eye out for a link on Twitter if you'd like to tune in.

Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, you can register now to join Drs Irene Afreh-Mensah, Uwadiae Ima-Edomwonyi and other speakers for their top tips on how to progress and excel through training as a Black trainee GP.

Vaccine Data Resolution Service

Following discussions with NHS Digital to secure support for practices contacted by patients regarding vaccine record errors, we’re pleased that the central Vaccine Data Resolution Service (VDRS) is now accepting referrals via 119. This service aims to resolve missing or incorrect vaccination records for people vaccinated in England. If you are contacted by a patient who believes they have missing or incorrect COVID-19 vaccination data, you can advise them to call 119 and ask the call agent to make a referral to the VDRS team on their behalf. The VDRS team will then call the person back within five working days.

The service has been established by NHS England and NHS Improvement, in partnership with NHS Digital, and is delivered by both the South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit (SCW CSU) and by South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS). It consists of two main elements:

  • Outbound service: A pilot of outbound calls was launched on 3 August to patients identified as having a second dose but where no first dose is showing on the national immunisation database (NIMS). This service continues to operate.
  • Inbound service accessed via 119: Referrals to the VDRS can be made via any of the services accessed via 119. 

Please note: the service can only support individuals who have a current NHS number and are registered with a GP practice in England. 119 and VDRS call agents will not provide clinical advice and cannot assist at this time with queries related to vaccinations received overseas. If the query relates to personal information that is incorrect on the patient record (e.g. name, address), these will still need to be resolved by GP practices.

AGM 2021 and James Mackenzie Lecture

The Annual General Meeting of the College will take place on Friday 19 November 2021 at 30 Euston Square, London at 14:00. Notice and papers for the AGM will be available via the website.  

The James Mackenzie Lecture will also take place on that day at 16:00. This year’s lecture will be delivered by Professor Maureen Baker, a former Chair of the College. To register for one or both of these events, please email

Post written by

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of RCGP Council

Professor Martin Marshall is Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a GP in Newham, East London. He is also Professor of Healthcare Improvement at UCL in the Department of Primary Care and Population Health. Previously he was Programme Director for Population Health and Primary Care at UCLPartners (2014-2019), Director of Research & Development at the Health Foundation (2007-2012), Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England and Director General in the Department of Health (2006-2007), Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester (2000-2006) and a Harkness Fellow in Healthcare Policy. 

He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London and of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine and was a non-executive director of the Care Quality Commission until 2012. He has advised governments in Singapore, Egypt, Canada and New Zealand, has over 230 publications in the field of quality improvement and health service redesign and his primary academic interest is in maximising the impact of research on practice. In 2005 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for Services to Health Care. 

A co-founder and driving force of the Rethinking Medicine movement, Martin has a passionate commitment to the values of the NHS, patient care and ensuring the GP voice is central in a time of great change. When he’s not working, he likes being outside, preferably on a mountain or a coastal path with his wife Sue and their puppy. 

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