Let’s be kind to ourselves and let’s encourage others to be kind and patient, too

20 November 2020 

Nine months down the line from Time Zero and we’re all getting used to universal triage and remote consulting. But we’re still hearing from some of our patients that we haven’t got it right.

Is that surprising? I spoke to a GP friend recently who described his experience of introducing a new system of triage and video consultations into his practice several years ago. He ran a well-organised practice and as a team they put an enormous amount of effort into planning, staff training, and working with their patient group. And still, he said, it felt like a shambles at first. It took nearly two years before consensus emerged that they’d done the right thing.

And that change programme wasn’t introduced in the middle of a crisis.

So, let’s be kind to ourselves and let’s encourage others to be kind and patient too (listen up armchair critics). And remember the aphorism that change is hardest at the beginning, messiest in the middle and best at the end.

Latest updates from your College

AGM and Council

It was the College’s Annual General Meeting this morning, marking the end of one of the most extraordinary years in general practice that I can remember. Chair of Council always makes an address at the meeting, and I took the opportunity to thank members for their exceptional work over the last year, particularly during the pandemic, and for their work to come over the tough few months ahead. Read more about the AGM and my full speech.

The AGM is very much a business meeting, ahead of Council tomorrow where we will discuss and debate College policy. It’s usually followed by a Fellowship ceremony and James Mackenzie lecture - both of which have been unfortunately postponed due to the pandemic. I do hope we’ll be able to reintroduce these inspiring and enjoyable elements of RCGP culture next year.

On the agenda at Council tomorrow are several papers for discussion, including one on relationship-based care - my policy priority for my three-year tenure as Chair. This paper explores how best to define relationship-based care for it to have most impact, and how it fits into the evolving primary care landscape.

I’d also just like to take a moment to thank Carey Lunan, who will be stepping down as RCGP Scotland Chair at the end of the year. Carey has been a formidable force for GPs and patients in Scotland, and one of the most value-driven leaders I’ve had the pleasure to work with. She’ll be missed but I look forward to working with new Joint Chairs David Shackles and Chris Williams who will take up the role in January.

I’ll give a full update next week.

COVID-19 update

It’s been another busy week in the effort to tackle COVID-19 as we hear more positive news about potential vaccines and details trickle out about how the COVID-19 vaccination programme will be delivered.

Today we heard that the expanded aspect of this year’s flu vaccination programme - making patients aged between 50-64 eligible - will go ahead.

The College has been positive about plans to expand the flu vaccination programme. The vaccine is the best protection patients have against flu and vaccinating more people should ease pressures on the NHS as we continue to tackle COVID-19 alongside usual winter pressures. We’ve also been positive about general practice playing a central role in delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, particularly given our expertise in delivering mass vaccination programmes.

However, we have been clear - and I hope you think this has come through in our media appearances - that delivering two mass vaccination programmes at the same time, as well as delivering the vital care our patients rely on us for, will be an enormous challenge, and one we can’t do alone.

This is why I was encouraged about the announcement from St John’s Ambulance that they will be training volunteers to help with the COVID vaccination programme - and I’m hearing more and more from retired colleagues, and colleagues from across the NHS, that they are keen to support the effort.

We continue to await details about the logistics, and we’ll share them as soon as we hear more, but I’m certainly sensing that 'we’re in this together' and that’s what will get us through this.

RCGP Live - reaction to the spending review

ext Wednesday, 25 November, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will be announcing his one-year spending review. The College has called for this to include funding to help increase the general practice workforce, better technology and infrastructure for general practice, and to tackle health inequalities.

Whatever the outcome of the spending review The following evening, on Thursday 26 November at 19:00 we’ll have the next instalment of our LIVE series on YouTube. Our panel, hosted by Vice Chair for External Affairs Gary Howsam, will be reacting to the funding announcements and discussing what it means for general practice and our patients.

We have a brilliant panel lined up including: former GP and Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee Sarah Wollaston, former Labour MP and GP Paul Williams, the BMA's Krishna Kasaraneni, the Health Foundation’s Becks Fisher, HEE’s Simon Gregory and other special guests will be joining us.

If you want to put a question to the panel, please do by commenting on our social media posts about the event, or tweeting us using #RCGPLIVE, or commenting on the YouTube feed live. You can also catch up on previous sessions on our YouTube channel.

HSJ Awards 2020 - College success!

The College is delighted that our Veteran Friendly GP Practice Accreditation Scheme, funded by NHS England and Improvement, has been shortlisted in this year’s HSJ Awards in the Military and Civilian Health Partnership category.

This scheme started out as an initiative by Midland Faculty but has now been rolled out across England with more than 800 practices signed up. It aims to support practices to identify patients who have served, or currently serve, in the armed forces and deliver the unique care and signposting they often need. Many thanks - and congratulations - to Robin Simpson, Jonathan Leach, Mike Brookes and, recently appointed, Veronica Grant for their work on this project.

The winner of the award will be announced on 17 March 2021. More information about how to apply for veteran friendly practice accreditation is available.

#MyGP – patient appreciation for general practice

Earlier this week the College launched #MyGP, a social media campaign highlighting positive patient feedback GPs have received during the pandemic and encouraging other patients to share their positive experiences too by tweeting with the hashtag #MyGP.

The reaction emphasises how much your hard work and dedication to continue to deliver care during the pandemic has been truly appreciated. See the initial thread on Twitter.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week

This week saw the start of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, which aims to increase awareness of antimicrobial resistance. Growing resistance to antibiotics continues to be a huge global threat and as GPs, we are on a constant drive to reduce prescribing them.

You’ve all done a good job to balance significantly reducing antibiotic prescriptions, with ensuring they are still prescribed to patients when necessary, and as a result, antibiotic prescriptions have continued to fall year-on-year in general practice.

Thank you for your continued commitment to this important cause.

Self-Care Week 2020

I mentioned last week that it is Self Care Week 2020. The College is a supporter of NHS England’s Self Care Forum and our representative on the group, Dominic Horne, has written a blog explaining more about the initiative.

We’ve also been supporting the initiative across our social media channels - thank you to one of our mental health leads, Faraz Mughal, and co-clinical champion for physical activity and lifestyle, Andrew Boyd, for sharing their top tips for patients to maintain good mental and physical health during this current lockdown. Read more, and please engage with our posts on Twitter.

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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