It's time we take a hard look at the often-dangerous cultures and practices we face in our work as GPs

6 August 2021

This time of year is traditionally a chance to recharge our batteries, reflect on the highs and lows of the year just passed and head back to work refreshed, ahead of a busy autumn and winter. This year will likely be different: not just in terms of what a holiday might look like, but general practice isn’t experiencing the relative lull that the summer usually brings. This is all the more reason to please try to take a break if you can.

Sadly, for some, their sense of exhaustion won’t go away simply by taking a fortnight off. Burnout impacts individuals but is often a workplace problem. For GPs, with our kind of job, with our kind of pressures and our dedication to our patients, we’re at high risk of burning out.

It's time we take a hard look at the often-dangerous cultures and practices we face in our work as GPs. We need to reduce the demands of the job. We need more people, and more support to help us cope. We need to see the same trust in us being shown by policy makers as it is consistently shown in us by our patients - trust to manage the demands of the job and do what’s best for our patients, without being micro-managed.

Things won’t change overnight, but we might start to turn the tide against this rising problem.

Post written by

Dr Gary Howsam, College Vice Chair for External Affairs

Gary is a GP Partner in a multi-site practice in Peterborough.

He was elected as Vice Chair (External Affairs) of RCGP in 2019. His College portfolio also includes being officer lead for Sustainability and the Climate Emergency, Research and Innovation, and Patient and Carer involvement.

Gary has been Chair of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG's Governing Body since July 2016 and he is also Vice Chair of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) Board, Vice Chair of the Peterborough Health and Wellbeing Board and a Senior Clinical Tutor at the University of Cambridge.

He initially trained as a dentist, but after completing a subsequent medical degree and basic surgical training, with a view to a career in maxillofacial surgery, he moved across to General Practice training in 2005. He has worked in salaried, partner, trainer and Out of Hours roles across Cambridgeshire since finishing his training in 2008. 

Latest updates from the College

New President and Council members

We’re delighted to announce that Professor Dame Clare Gerada will be the College’s next President, succeeding Professor Amanda Howe in November. Clare has a long history with the College: she served as Chair of Council from 2010-2013 and is currently the longest serving member on Council. She brings a huge amount of experience and ideas to the role and we look forward to welcoming her back to the College’s Leadership Team. (Our Women in General Practice exhibition is currently running online and was featured in the BMJ this week.)

We’ll also be welcoming a new cohort of nationally-elected Council members, a mix of familiar and new faces who will take their seats from November Council. Congratulations to Dr Susi Caesar, Dr Tajvinder Grewal, Professor Mike Holmes, Dr Uwadiae Ima-Edomwonyi, Dr Mohana Ratnapalan and Dr Victoria Tzortziou-Brown.

Welcome and congratulations

A very warm welcome to those starting their GP training this week, and huge congratulations to those completing it and who are now able to practice independently in the UK.

General practice is a tough career but, despite the ongoing pressures, it’s also hugely interesting, stimulating and rewarding.

We wish you all rich and fulfilling careers - and please remember, whether you’re starting out as an ST1, or have just become a newly-qualified GP, the RCGP is here to support you every step of the way.

Applications for the February 2022 (GPST) intake are currently open.

For more information, head to the NHS GP Recruitment website - applications close on 17 August 2021 at 16:00.

GP Action Plan: Write to your MP about the challenges in your surgery

Last week we launched 'General practice in crisis: an action plan for recovery' which sets out five priority actions for the Government to take to improve care for patients in general practice in England. The report was timed to coincide with the arrival of new NHSE England Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard and Sajid Javid’s recent appointment as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in England.

Thanks to many of you, this has already been shared with a number of MPs from across the political spectrum who represent constituencies around the country. Find out more about how you can write to your MP to share our action plan and set out the challenges being faced in your surgery.

Abuse of staff

It’s been awful to hear the reports of healthcare professionals and other volunteers working on the COVID vaccination programme - and those extolling the evidence-based benefits of vaccination - facing abuse from anti-vaxxers in recent weeks. This came to a head with Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), being subjected to a torrent of abuse following a media round encouraging pregnant women to get jabbed.

This is completely unacceptable. Nobody should face abuse for simply doing their job, but it seems particularly cruel that in these cases, the abuse is a result of trying to help people and tackle this pandemic.

We were really pleased to sign up, via the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, to this letter in The Times this week (second letter down), and support the RCM’s #IStandWithGill campaign on social media.

Data Strategy online drop-in session

The College will be responding to the Department of Health and Social Care’s draft strategy for reshaping health and social care with data which sets out plans for how data will be used across health and care. This is a substantial document with significant implications for general practice.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts on the strategy to inform our response. Please join us for the Zoom drop-in session on 12 August 2021, 16:30 - 17:30, if you’re available or alternatively you can send feedback by email to

  • Join the Zoom Meeting
  • Meeting ID: 989 9106 7565
  • Passcode: 491141

Taskforce on Multiple Long Term Conditions report

Important work has been published this week by the Taskforce on Multiple Long Term Conditions.

This report is the final product of three years' work for the Taskforce, with contributions from Dr Mark Ashworth and Prof. Carolyn Chew-Graham. The research for this report focuses on four areas of England containing communities on low incomes, people from minority ethnic groups, and people living in both urban and rural environments. It combines the insights of the professionals and services working in those places with those of the people living there.

At the heart of this work are powerful and compelling stories of eight people who shared detailed insights into how they manage their own health, their own views and experiences of how well health and social care services have worked for them, and how they would really like to be supported. Their stories bring vividly to life the challenges they faced before and during the pandemic.

The report should be of interest to people with multiple long term conditions, as well as clinicians working with them in primary care.

New InnovAiT podcast

In this latest free-to-access InnovAiT podcast Dr Sadiya Ayaz, a GP trainer and appraiser in SW London, is joined by Diane Baylis, Clinical Risk Educator at the Medical Protection Society to discuss managing complaints in primary care.

The interview covers how the pandemic has impacted on the nature of complaints, how to make remote consulting more effective and safe, factors that contribute to complaints, and how doctors undergoing complaints can be supported.

You can listen to the podcast now.

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