GPs are core to every effective health system

19 November 2021

In the last week I have done two member webinars, and two New Membership ceremonies in Cardiff and Belfast. Today I hosted the 2021 AGM and two awards ceremonies, where again we congratulated many GPs for their different and important contributions. These have been particularly special moments, as after today (19 November) I shall no longer be your President. After two years, I hand on to my successor, Clare Gerada, and will look back on a term of office where for the most part I had no chance to do face to face meetings with members.

Some have said they feel sorry for the disruption of my presidency by the pandemic. It is of course a great privilege to meet other GPs, and be able to witness your efforts and successes firsthand. But when I think of the disruptions caused by the pandemic to people’s professional and personal lives, I honestly feel I have been fortunate to be President in this time.

Even when working remotely, I have seen the constant stream of activity being carried out by colleagues in my practice and local NHS communities - the efforts to deliver services, organise safe care, get the vaccinations given, and also still supporting those in training during this time. I have seen the enormous efforts of GPs involved with undergraduate teaching to get material put online for medical students and organise safe placements where possible. I have seen the trojan efforts of fellow Officers and staff at RCGP to provide members with accurate and up to date information in a period of enormous uncertainty and constant change, to transform the MRCGP exam into a safe and robust alternative, and to advocate for GPs in a time when there was both preoccupation with other sectors, and (sadly) overt ignorance and hostility expressed towards us.

GPs are core to every effective health system, and I have been so privileged to be part of this special speciality. So here I am, really, just saying ‘thank you’. My respect for GPs is stronger than ever. Whether President or not, I am still a committed member of the RCGP, and will continue to work in whatever ways I can be effective to help us all have a great career - and deliver excellent care for all patients in primary health care.

Keep safe, keep going - and keep being a good GP. You matter.

Post written by

Professor Amanda Howe, RCGP President

Amanda Howe qualified as MRCGP in 1983, has worked as a GP since 1984, and currently practices at Bowthorpe Surgery in Norwich. She is also Professor of Primary Care at the University of East Anglia. She has a wealth of experience within RCGP, where she has previously held the positions of Vice Chair of Professional Development and Honorary Secretary. She is a Board member of the East Anglia Faculty and was their Provost 2016-2019. She is also the immediate past President of WONCA - the World Organisation of Family Doctors - in which role she promoted the crucial role of GPs in running effective and efficient health systems.

Amanda has a substantive track record in educational innovation and research, and has led the GP teaching for the Norwich based MB BS since its inception. She is passionate about enhancing training opportunities for medical students and young doctors outside hospital settings to strengthen patient care in community settings. Her research interests include mental health, professionalism and resilience, and effective empowerment of patients and professionals in care, education and research. Her wish as President is to bring her experience to support members, and continue our learning together.

Latest updates from College Chair Martin Marshall

New BMA Chair

Firstly, I'd like to congratulate Farah Jameel on her election as the next Chair of the BMA's General Practitioners Committee, replacing Richard Vautrey when he steps down at the end of the month. It's an incredibly challenging time for general practice, as you all know only too well, but Farah has great experience and expertise, having been part of the executive committee over the last four years, and anyone who knows her knows that she will bring a deep understanding of the profession and patient care to the role. I wish her the best of luck and look forward to working with her.

AGM and James Mackenzie Lecture

As you receive this we'll be coming to the end of our AGM. It's the first we've been able to conduct face to face since 2019, which incidentally is when I became Chair, meaning there is just one year of my tenure to go - and lots still to do.

It's been a real 'bumper' ceremony and great to see so many members and fellows being awarded for their contributions to the College, profession and patients. It was also fantastic to see so many members become Fellows - and the investiture of several Honorary Fellows, who whilst not GPs themselves have had important influence on the profession.

A highlight of the day has certainly been former College Chair Maureen Baker's James Mackenzie Lecture. Her delve into Quantified Self movement and increasing democratisation of healthcare was incredibly thought-provoking. For anyone who wasn't able to attend or watch live, it is available free to stream.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Amanda Howe, who stepped down as College President today, for her service to the College, not just over the last two years in the role but throughout her career. And I'd like to welcome Clare Gerada, who is now our College President, and I'm sure will be a fantastic advocate for the profession as she has been for the many years I've known her.

Thank you also to Jonathan Leach and Victoria Tzortziou-Brown who will step down as joint Honorary Secretaries at our governing Council meeting tomorrow. They will be replaced by Michael Mulholland, whose term as Vice Chair for Professional Development will end, and who will in turn be replaced by Margaret Ikpoh - welcome Margaret, I'm greatly looking forward to working with you.

Inquiry into GP services

Over the last few months, I've appeared in front of MPs on numerous parliamentary committees to emphasise the workforce and workload challenges being faced in general practice. Our message is getting across to parliamentarians, and this week the Health Select Committee has launched an inquiry on the future of general practice, a key theme of which will be looking into the challenges facing the profession over the next five years. The College will be submitting a written response ahead of the deadline on 14 December, and I encourage you to do so individually if you can.

You can help us inform a wider group of MPs about the challenges in general practice in England, and the hard work that you and your practice are doing. All you have to do is enter your postcode, the rest of the work is done for you.

Joint amendment on workforce planning

The RCGP has joined a group of over 60 organisations, including Royal Colleges, leading health think tanks and charities, to put forward an amendment to the Health and Care Bill on workforce planning that would require the Health Secretary to publish independently verified assessments of current and future workforce numbers every two years, consistent with Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) long-term fiscal projections.

The amendment has been tabled by Chair of the Health Select Committee Jeremy Hunt MP to be debated in parliament next week and has 38 MPs from across the political spectrum signed up to support it. This includes Shadow Secretary of State Jonathan Ashworth MP and Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP. You can read more about it here.

I’ve co-signed a letter, published in The Times today, about it.

Accelerated citizen access to GP records

You may have heard about plans from NHSX to give patients automatic access to new entries on their GP record from December. I know this has caused concern for many colleagues. While we all recognise the benefits of record access, this does not come without risk. Last week I wrote to NHSX to outline concerns about the pace and timing of this programme at a point when workload is so unmanageable, as well as to highlight the serious related safeguarding issues. We have called for the roll out to be delayed until all our concerns can be fully addressed. We’re continuing to have positive conversations with the NHSX team and hope to see improvements to the plans soon.

Community Pharmacist Consultation Service

Yesterday, the College and Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England published a report with a series of recommendations on the roll out of the GP Community Pharmacist Consultation Service. This follows a workshop which brought together colleagues from across pharmacy and general practice, including frontline staff and representative bodies, to examine how to maximise the potential of the scheme to manage growing demand on the health service as a whole.

With these recommendations, including support for implementation such as investment in the technology and project management required, and enhanced communication of the service to patients, we hope the service can help alleviate pressures in general practice and the wider NHS, as well as improving patient access to care and outcomes. The College has also partnered with the RPS to provide CPD consultation training to community pharmacists who are participating in this service.

You can read the full report.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week

During World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, we're continuing to work with UKHSA to support GPs in reducing antimicrobial resistance. Antibiotic-resistant bloodstream infections fell in 2020 for the first time since 2016, but still remain at a higher level than six years ago. The Target Antibiotics Toolkit provides the latest guidance for managing common infections in primary care.

Take a look today for a range of resources, including a dedicated suite of materials for managing respiratory tract infections (RTIs). There's also new advice on delayed prescriptions, which can reduce antibiotic use by up to 40%. We've added new content on shared decision-making with patients, and there are patient-facing leaflets in more than 20 languages for use in your practice.

You can read more about the TARGET Antibiotics Toolkit in the latest edition of GP Frontline.

GP Specialty Training

This year's GPST application window opened on Thursday 4 November and this month we’ve showcased the many possibilities of a career in general practice for anyone choosing speciality training. Medical students or FY doctors considering general practice can access this livestreamed event answering questions about life as a GP trainee and our Instagram live Q&A on GPST applications - and next week we’ll be hosting a Twitter Space surgery addressing any concerns before the application window closes.

Please share amongst your networks as appropriate.

NHSE&I health and wellbeing for primary care

NHS England and Improvement would like to invite all primary care colleagues to join an online event on 25 November at 12:00 – 13:30 to hear about the range of dedicated health and wellbeing support offers available to colleagues working across the four primary care sectors, in recognition of the current pressures and upcoming winter pressures.

This online session will also offer delegates the opportunity to contribute to the national programme of work and share their thoughts, ideas and inspirations on how we can best support the health and wellbeing of our primary care colleagues.

You can register now.

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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