Our job as professional leaders is to tell politicians the truth

18 June 2021

I worry that some of my Just Saying mini-blogs come across as negative. Isn’t one of my jobs as Chair of our College to inspire a stressed workforce? If you think it is, how about the following framing of the results of the College’s most recent member tracking survey:

  • 40% of respondents do not report a decline in their mental health over the last year.
  • 65% of respondents do not feel so stressed that they can’t cope at least once a week.
  • 50% of practices are not finding it difficult to recruit new GPs.
  • 76% of GPs do not plan to retire in the next five years.

Does that sound any better?

It doesn’t. This data is extremely depressing. I’m sorry, but our job as professional leaders is to tell politicians the truth, even if it’s hard to stomach.

Latest updates from your College


You and your teams are at the forefront of delivering support to the increasing number of patients suffering with post-COVID syndrome, or 'long COVID', and the College has been calling for some time for more investment in education for healthcare professionals, as well as treatment and rehabilitation for patients.

Earlier this week NHS England announced its 'long COVID' plans for 2021/22. They include £30 million investment into general practice to support GPs and our teams and £70 million into expanding other NHS services, including for children with the condition.

We await the full details, but these plans should give GPs better access to specialist services that can be of real benefit to our patients.

However, we still need to see better access for GPs to appropriate diagnostic tools in the community, as well as rehabilitation services expanded and fully funded. We’re also disappointed to see such an emphasis, particularly in terms of investment, into the Your COVID Recovery website as we know there are other innovative digital resources being used in post-COVID clinics that have had excellent feedback from clinicians and patients. It is important that these are also shared with every post-COVID clinic to ensure local teams and patients are able to choose the rehabilitation that is most suitable.

The College has been developing its own resources, including an eLearning course on post-COVID syndrome, and hosting webinars to ensure GP teams are kept up to date with emerging evidence. These resources are free and available to all healthcare professionals via our website.

Our thanks to Gail Allsopp, a GP in Derbyshire and the College’s Clinical Lead for Clinical Policy, who is now a leading expert on 'long COVID' and is skilfully navigating us through many complex issues to ensure that GPs have the strongest voice on COVID 'recovery' in the community.

CQC inspections and ethnic minority GPs

At our last UK Council meeting in February, a motion brought by Council Members Sonali Kinra and Margaret Ikpoh calling for action by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to address the impact of inspections on ethnic minority GPs was passed overwhelmingly.

Since then we have been working with the CQC to address the issues faced by ethnic minority GPs around inspections, including our recent roundtable event which included powerful accounts from some of our ethnic minority members based on their lived experiences. While this was a constructive event, we are disappointed that the CQC has declined our call for an independent review into the relationship between practice ratings and ethnicity.

On Wednesday, Vice Chair for External Affairs Gary Howsam wrote to CQC to reiterate our calls, which you can read more about in GP Online.

We will continue to work constructively with the CQC to reduce the regulatory burden and improve the inspection process for all GPs.

Mandatory vaccination

We heard the news on Wednesday that vaccination for COVID-19 is likely to become mandatory for those working in a care home setting, including for GPs who work in care homes. This is now being followed by a consultation as to whether vaccination should be a condition of employment in the NHS and care sector.

While we strongly urge anyone who works in general practice, the wider NHS, and the care sector to get vaccinated unless there are good reasons for not doing so, the College is opposed to mandatory vaccination.

We believe education about the benefits of vaccination so that people can make an informed choice is more effective than the imposition of health interventions, which risks undermining trust in the vaccination programme. We have repeatedly made this point publicly, and to government, and we’ll be responding to this latest consultation along these lines while continuing discussions with Royal Colleges and the BMA about this complex issue.


Many primary care teams and out of hours services are involved in the COVID oximetry@home project where patients monitor their saturations at home in the acute phase of COVID-19 illness.

Evaluation has shown a statistically significant reduction in mortality and length of hospital stay for acute COVID-19 in Hampshire using this approach.

Find out more.

Earlier this year we hosted a joint webinar with the Academic Health Sciences Network on the topic.

Valproate letter

Dr Aidan Fowler, National Director of Patient Safety and Deputy Chief Medical Officer, has written to all women and girls in the 12-55 age group who are currently prescribed sodium valproate, calling on them to continue their contraception, to seek a medicines review if they haven’t had one in the last 12 months, and advising them to speak urgently to their doctor if they think they might be pregnant or are considering trying to conceive.

The letter is a response to the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review carried out by Baroness Cumberlege last year.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have now set up a dedicated Valproate Safety Implementation Group to reduce its use and prevent unplanned pregnancies. The Group is also working to develop better data sources and a shared care protocol to improve links between care settings.

There’s always the likelihood that patient safety calls such as this will further increase GP workload, but we’re all aware that this is an important and ongoing safety challenge.

Thanks as always to Dr Judy Shakespeare for her ongoing work to represent the College in this important area.

Judy has asked that this video from the MHRA be shared with you. You can also find more resources for patients from the MHRA and NHS:

Personalised Care Institute launches first podcast

In this first episode, Marie, a member of RCOG’s Women's Voices Involvement Panel, talks to Dr Pauline Foreman, Clinical Director for the PCI, and RCGP Women’s Health Clinical Champion Dr Anne Connolly about the impact of personalised care on her experience of the menopause.

Each episode will explore the impact of personalised care across a variety of health and care disciplines, discuss how it leads to better patient outcomes, and share approaches for embedding it into practice.

Subscribe now on your chosen podcast platform.

William Pickles Lecture 2021

The William Pickles Lecture will be held on 25 June 2021, from 18:30 to 19:30 via Zoom.

Professor Sheona Macleod will deliver this year’s lecture on the theme of 'The Future Doctor - Touching Hearts and Minds'. Professor Macleod is Deputy Medical Director, Education Reform for Health Education England and Honorary Professor, University of Nottingham and University of Leicester.

The Pickles Lecture is usually part of our Spring General Meeting, but we have decided to run it separately to enable more College members to join online. It promises to be a stimulating thought piece, as well as honouring William Pickles, who was a GP for over 50 years and our first-ever College President in 1953.

To register for the lecture, please email secretariat@rcgp.org.uk

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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