Politicians must commit to a new plan for general practice

25 March 2022

As the pandemic struck in early 2020 Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a courageous commitment. ‘Whatever extra resources our NHS needs to cope with Covid-19, it will get’ he said. ‘Whatever it needs, whatever it costs, we stand behind our NHS’. 
Two years on, let’s replace Covid-19 with Depression. Or Cancer. Or Cardiovascular Disease. Or Obesity. Or any condition that requires general practice to do its job.
What struck me about the Chancellor’s 2020 statement was not the unlimited offer of more money from the Treasury. It was the level of commitment embodied in the phrase ‘we stand behind our NHS’.
If politicians want to demonstrate their commitment to general practice now, they need to commit to a new plan for general practice. A plan to increase the size of the workforce, reduce unhelpful bureaucracy, invest in better technology and estates. A plan that gives clinicians time to care and time to build a therapeutic relationship with their patients. That’s the case I made in giving evidence to the Health Select Committee inquiry into general practice last week and it’s the message the College will continue to make to government. 

Latest updates from your College

Health and Care Bill clears another Parliamentary step – keep emailing your MP!

The Health and Care Bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

This was the final opportunity for peers to ‘tidy up’ the Bill, concentrating on making sure the eventual law is effective and workable before it returns to the House of Commons and the ‘ping pong’ process begins. The Bill will now return to the Commons on 30 March where MPs will have a chance to debate and vote on any amendments that were made to the Bill in the Lords. 

Members of the House of Lords previously voted in favour of an amendment to the Bill that would encourage better workforce planning by forcing the Government to publish projections of NHS workforce gaps every two years. I spoke to the FT this week about why it is so important this amendment passes - we must now convince MPs to vote for it.

There is still time to join more than 1,300 others (huge thanks to all of you for taking action) and email your MP to ask them to support this amendment, which will ultimately help to keep general practice and the wider NHS sustainable for the future.

Spring Budget delivered amid rising cost of living

There was nothing directly aimed at general practice in Rishi Sunak’s package of financial measures, but most pertinent to the NHS was the Health and Social Care Levy, first announced last year, which will be ringfenced to support UK health and social care bodies from 2023/34. What’s unclear is how much of this will go to general practice.

As GPs, we will already be aware that rising bills could cause mental and physical health deterioration amongst our patients, with the clear link between poverty and deprivation and health; and it’s likely, if we haven’t noticed it already, that increased demand will further impact our workload. There will also be increasing running costs of GP practices to contend with.

We will continue to put pressure on the Government to ensure they honour their workforce and premises commitments to general practice.

RCGP in the media

My response to research published in BMJ Open on a fall in the prevalence of gastro-intestinal infection during the first six months of the pandemic garnered a fair amount of media interest, being covered by BBC News, The Independent, Evening Standard and a number of other titles. I used the opportunity to reinforce key health advice, such as the importance of good hygiene measures like regular handwashing.

I was also quoted in a piece in The Guardian responding to a BJGP study which highlighted a rise in the use of anti-depressants. I made the point that anti-depressants can be effective drugs when used appropriately and that a rise in their use needn’t be cause for alarm. Indeed, it is most likely to suggest that more people are seeking medical help for anxiety-related conditions, as well as improvement in the identification and diagnosis of them.

My response to comments made by Jeremy Hunt MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, on the so-called ‘uberisation’ of GP services was featured in the Mail. I made the case for continuity of care and delivering trusting relationships and the better health outcomes for patients and the NHS it brings about.

Accelerated citizen access to GP data

As I've said previously, the RCGP has been engaging with NHSEI over their plans to automate patient access to their GP records. I know there is increasing concern as the planned go-live date of April approaches. We have requested a delay and while we are still waiting for an official decision on timing, we are assured that nothing will be switched on, come 1 April. I will keep you updated as soon as we hear more.

Flu season 2021/22: Lessons learnt and what to expect for 2022/23

Thursday 31 March 2022, 7pm to 8:30pm. 

Join us for this free informative online session. College Fellow Dr George Kassianos CBE & Professor Simon de Lusignan from the College’s Research and Surveillance Centre will be discussing the various flu vaccinations, key patient groups and how the contribution of sentinel GPs to influenza surveillance can aid vaccine effectiveness. With a generous Q&A session, this a great opportunity to have your questions around flu vaccinations and preparing for the next season answered. Register for the flu season session

Telephone Consultation and Triage Skills Training

Monday 28 March 2022, 9:15am to 5pm.

This online training will provide you with thorough understanding of how to manage risks involved in telephone assessments to practise safely, effectively and efficiently. This practical day will give you realistic tools and techniques in telephone triage and consultations by using interactive exercises, real calls, group work and plenary talks. Register for the telephone consultation session.

Autism policy opportunity

NHSE&I are looking for a National Speciality Adviser for Autism to work on the health inequalities work stream to provide advice and leadership with a focus on tacking health inequalities amongst autistic people. The role is a secondment or individual contract (15hrs per week) and is an opportunity for a GP with an interest in autism and learning disabilities to gain experience in policy and influencing. Application deadline is 31 March 2022 - see more information about the role and application

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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