The importance of ensuring a robust pipeline of future GPs cannot be underestimated

21 August 2020

Last Friday’s message was meant to be my last for a couple of weeks but there are no signs of things slowing down, despite it being the middle of August, and I wanted to update you without delay on some important news.

I’m delighted to tell you that the College brought about a Government u-turn yesterday when it was announced that the cap on the number of university medical school places had been lifted, meaning that the majority of A-level students can take up their places as offered. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be given priority at universities where capacity is limited.

This followed our lobbying earlier in the week when we wrote to Universities Minister, Michele Donelan, highlighting the impact of the A-Level results fiasco on prospective medical students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds who have had their grades marked down as a result of the arbitrary algorithm.

As well as calling for clarity on the numbers of students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and BAME communities affected, our letter highlighted the need for additional funding to ensure that universities can facilitate these additional places.

We sent the letter on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning, Health and Social Care Secretary for England Matt Hancock was already giving media interviews saying he recognised RCGP concerns and that he was looking into medical undergraduate places. By lunchtime yesterday, we had the official government announcement and you can read our response.

We’re all too well aware of the many devastating effects of COVID-19 on our communities but the A-levels debacle is incredibly concerning. Of course, this is not just an England issue and there have been similar u-turns in Scotland and Wales, whilst Queen’s University Belfast has asked for urgent clarification over the NI Education Minister’s u-turn on how A-levels were graded.

The making of a good GP starts years before medical school and it’s vital that our future doctors are encouraged to pursue their aspirations from the earliest possible opportunity. The importance of ensuring a robust pipeline of future GPs cannot be underestimated and that work needs to start now.

We really hope that the College’s intervention will mean that thousands more prospective doctors will now be able to follow their dreams - and they will find a welcoming home in general practice a decade from now!

It’s always good to get the result you want - especially when it happens in 48 hours! I’m particularly proud of what the College has achieved as our actions were prompted by my own Faculty in North East London who were lobbying local universities to honour offers of places, with specific reference to underserved communities. I am so proud to be part of such a passionate, pro-active group of people whose commitment to fairness and determination to do what’s right is simply awe-inspiring.

Our letter received extensive national print attention including the Financial Times, The New York Times, The Daily Mail, The Evening Standard, iNews, The Guardian, The Independent, Metro, The Sun and The Daily Mirror. It was covered by the Associated Press, Press Association and Sky News Radio, leading to more than 700 regional, international and online hits.

I was also interviewed on numerous national broadcast programmes including BBC News Channel, BBC 1 o’clock News, BBC World News, Sky News, Channel 4 News, as well as radio programmes LBC News and Times Radio where I emphasised the benefit that lifting the cap would have on the future GP workforce capacity, while also speaking up for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the importance of having a future GP workforce that is as diverse and inclusive as our patient populations.

We’re also really pleased to hear that the Government’s eviction ban, which was due to end this weekend, has been extended to 20 September. The College was signatory to a letter put together by Medact, along with other health bodies, such as the BMA, and Royal College of Physicians, to Housing Minister Robert Jenrick earlier this week, and I’m confident this had an impact on the decision.

We know, as GPs, the terrible consequences homelessness and inadequate housing can have on our patients - and never more so than during a pandemic. This is the second example this week of the influence our political lobbying can have. This will have a genuine impact on the health of patients - thank you to joint Hon Sec Victoria Tzortziou-Brown for leading this piece of work for the College.

Infection control - new PPE guidance

The latest infection control guidance (673 KB PDF) has just been released by NHS England.

The key findings for primary care are that in some clinical outpatient settings, such as vaccination/injection clinics where contact with individuals is minimal, single use PPE items for each encounter - for example, gloves and aprons - are not necessary.

Gloves and aprons are recommended when there is (anticipated) exposure to blood/body fluids or non-intact skin. Staff administering vaccinations/injections must ensure hand hygiene between patients and wear a sessional facemask.

We are now developing College FAQs and further CPD learning which will be available on our website shortly.

RCGP Council elections - voting now open

It’s excellent to see 30 highly-qualified, highly-competent candidates standing for RCGP Council this year - and I’m encouraged to see so many members and fellows from groups that are currently under-represented on Council. It’s also good to see so many new faces, as well as some familiar ones.

UK Council sets the direction for the College’s work. It’s made up of more than 70 GPs who oversee, scrutinise and challenge what we do, so that the services and support we offer to our members are as representative and relevant as they possibly can be. These elections are your chance to vote for who will do this on your behalf, so that we can ensure we’re working in your best interests.

There are six vacancies for nationally-elected Council members to sit from November 2020 - November 2023. Read about the 30 candidates and why they are standing. This is your chance to make your voice heard, so please do use your vote before the poll closes at 12pm, Friday 11 September.

Building the Future of General Practice

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, please join us for this free online event to explore what the future holds for general practice in a fast-changing world. I will be giving my first full address to College members as RCGP Chair, in which I will set out my vision for the future of general practice and relationship-based patient care.

We will be looking at:

  • How general practice will emerge from the pandemic
  • What the future holds for you as a GP
  • Practical tips on how you can best manage personally and professionally.

This is a fantastic opportunity to engage with your College in the absence of the RCGP Annual Conference which was due to take place in October 2020. The Annual Conference will now take place in February 2021. Further details to be announced soon.

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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