One or two lessons for healthcare leaders, perhaps?

20 August 2021

Ensuring female patients are heard and the opening of our Scottish Ballot ElectionsI listened recently to a fascinating podcast by the curator of Amsterdam Zoo, an expert in chimpanzee behaviour. She’s spent most of her career observing troops of chimps and has become fascinated by their leadership behaviours. She’s convinced that Homo sapiens has much to learn from our primate cousins.

It appears that all chimpanzee troops have a strong leader, and this individual competes with others to remain top dog, if you don’t mind me mixing my species. They achieve this by creating alliances with others in the troop, constantly nurturing their social networks, forging partnerships and heading off trouble.

The leader has to occasionally fight other ambitious members of the troop to maintain their supremacy but as soon they have asserted their authority, they seek reconciliation with the vanquished, and in doing so avoid repeated attacks. Leaders that fail to be conciliatory rapidly lose their dominant position.

What do you think? Perhaps one or two lessons for healthcare leaders?

Latest updates from your College

Covid booster vaccinations

This week we made representations to NHS England calling for urgent clarity on the Covid-19 booster campaign and how it aligns with flu vaccinations planned for this autumn. We’ve reiterated that it’s essential that guidance from the JCVI is published as soon as possible. However, in the meantime, we have received clarity that practices should not allow the fact that the guidance has yet to be published to delay their flu vaccination programme. We know that practices will prioritise their patients as they best see fit and expect many will launch their flu vaccination programme as planned while we await JCVI guidance.

Our Devolved Nation Chairs - David Shackles and Chris Williams in Scotland, Mair Hopkin and Peter Saul in Wales, and Laurence Dorman in Northern Ireland - are in regular contact with their respective government and health officials, as well as our GPC colleagues in each nation, and will keep you updated on any developments.

Post (long) Covid educational sessions

Our Clinical Policy team and RCGP team in Northern Ireland have secured funding to run monthly interactive educational Zoom sessions on Post (long) Covid Syndrome. These sessions will take place on the first Thursday in the month (19:00 - 20:30) starting in October and will bring together GPs from across the four nations to learn from each other. You can bring your own experience to the discussion and external experts will be updating on the latest evidence promoting the best care for the growing number of patients with Post Covid Syndrome in primary care.

Please see the Zoom meeting details to join the sessions:

  • Meeting ID - 439 114 2964
  • Passcode - 183664


The devastating events in Afghanistan are affecting us all, but undoubtedly none more so than our colleagues and patients who have links with the country.

Our thoughts are with our military colleagues who have served in Afghanistan and many patients will be members of the armed forces community including veterans, their families or those with close family ties. Mental health issues including PTSD, depression and the use of recreational drugs may increase, with consequences for themselves and those around them. 

With equivalents in the Devolved Nations, NHS England has a range of specialist mental health services for military veterans, known as Op Courage. Op Courage is staffed by mental health experts who have extensive experience of helping members of the military community.  Individuals can self-refer or a GP can refer the individual as needed.

The College has developed a wide range of materials to assist practice teams in supporting military veterans and their families. We now have over 1000 'veteran friendly' accredited GP practices - you can see further details of how you can sign up. You can also find specific eLearning resources and webinars providing up to date information on how care of the military community is the same or different from other patients.

Chronic Fatigue/ME

We welcome the decision by NICE to postpone the publication of its new guideline on Chronic Fatigue/ME. Our Clinical Policy team has invested a huge amount of time and GP expertise into this work and the announcement of the delay demonstrates that the College’s concerns - taking into account the views of our members and clinical advisers - have been listened to.

We will use the extra time to continue to work constructively with NICE towards achieving an end result that is based on robust evidence and that appropriately reflects the needs of GPs, other clinicians and patients.

If you would like to have your say on matters of clinical policy, please consider joining the clinical adviser network.

CQC and ethnic minority-led GP practices

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is looking at the experiences of regulation on ethnic minority-led GP practices and has launched a survey, closing 31 August 2021. The survey has been sent to the practice email addresses held by the CQC to gather insights from each registered provider. All survey responses are anonymous, and if you haven’t received it, please email The College is continuing to call on the CQC to commission an independent review of its inspections and ratings, and how these relate to the ethnicity of the GPs providing care.

NHS England and Improvement is also developing a long-term race equality strategy, which will align with other strategic work such as the Long Term Plan 2019 and the People Plan 2020/21. You can contribute your views via an online forum until 12 September 2021.

Blood bottles

You’ll have heard that a shortage of some blood bottles is having an impact across the health service. The College is working hard to ensure that the implications for general practice are taken into account and that the impact of this shortage does not disproportionately affect patients in primary care. You can see the full national guidance to support the system (222 KB PDF), with recommendations for how we can make small changes in our use of blood bottles to help alleviate the shortage.

National cervical screening audit

The Cervical Screening Administrative Service is contacting GP practices over the next three weeks requesting action to support the NHS Cervical Screening Programme National Ceasing Audit, which has been brought forward to this summer (following the recent incident in the Scottish Cervical Screening Programme) to help reduce clinical risks and ensure there are no delays to reinstatement of individuals who need it.

5 Star Doctor

Congratulations to South London GP Vikesh Sharma who has been presented with this year’s '5 Star Doctor Award' by WONCA Europe.

The award is given annually to an outstanding family doctor and is extremely prestigious and highly coveted.

Vikesh is a keen internationalist with a strong interest in global health. He was an active member of the RCGP Junior International Committee and worked hard to attract donor funding from the EU to help AiTs and First5s participate in the Hippokrates Exchange Programme, as part of the Vasco da Gama Movement of WONCA Europe.

Well done Vikesh on your latest magnificent achievement.

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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