General practice needs space to do what it does well

26 March 2021

Last autumn NHS leaders said it was unlikely that more than 20% of all COVID jabs would be administered from general practice vaccination centres.

They expected the lion’s share would be delivered by hospital-based clinics and mass vaccination centres but, three months and nearly 30 million jabs down the line, the figure is closer to 75%.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise; general practices are convenient for local communities, have a track record of delivering successful mass vaccination programmes and, most importantly for a new vaccine, are trusted by their patients.

The announcement by NHS England last week of additional funding for practices reflects recognition by government that our continuing efforts are essential if the programme is to be a success. A long term commitment to hold back unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation would help too. General practice needs space to do what it does well.


Latest updates from your College

COVID-19 update

It’s hard to comprehend everything that has happened since the UK first went into lockdown a year ago - and incredible to look back at the ways in which GPs, our teams and our profession have responded to the biggest health crisis for a century.

I make no excuses for saying yet again that the way in which GPs have risen to the COVID challenge has been outstanding - whether it was quickly adapting to remote ways of working so patients could continue to safely access care, transforming your practices into COVID safe environments, or supporting community COVID-19 hot hubs and NHS 111 services. As well as delivering the largest-ever flu vaccination programme, you have stepped up to deliver the biggest vaccine programme in UK history, all at the same time as doing the day job.

The College cannot thank you enough for the immense contribution you have all made and continue to make.

Following the Government’s announcement of the temporary 'slow down' of vaccine supplies next month, the focus is now on delivering second doses to our high-risk patient groups. NHS England and Improvement have prepared a set of FAQs, covering issues of supply, scheduling, consent, and data collection. We encourage you to read these when planning your second dose clinics. There’s also a range of resources available on the RCGP website.

Day of Reflection

To mark one year from the start of the first national lockdown, the College observed and supported Tuesday’s Day of Reflection, organised by our charity partners Marie Curie.

It was an opportunity to reflect on those we’ve lost to the pandemic - we know 16 GPs have died due to COVID-19, and many of you will have lost colleagues, family members, friends and patients to the disease. It was also a chance to reflect on how all our lives have changed over the last, extraordinary, year. It was moving to see so many people getting involved with the initiative.

To coincide, Catherine Millington-Sanders, our joint RCGP and Marie Curie clinical lead for palliative and end of life care, has co-written a blog with retired palliative care physician Kathryn Mannix about having conversations with patients about their wishes, should they become so sick they might die. It also includes contributions from members of the RCGP & Partners end of life care think tank. The importance of this aspect of general practice has certainly been highlighted during the pandemic.

Personalised care

Trusting relationships was also the theme of a speech I gave to delegates at a King’s Fund Conference where I talked about the need to reform traditional 'hierarchical' relationships between health professionals and patients.

I was there in my capacity as Co-Chair of the College’s Personalised Care Institute and the conference looked at increasingly convincing evidence that trusting relationships between healthcare professionals and patients lead to better outcomes, increased compliance with medical advice and improved patient and clinician satisfaction.

I repeated my analogy that if trusting relationships between patients and their GPs were a drug, NICE would mandate their use in every consultation. I also called for health and care workers to be given the opportunity of accessing the high-quality training provided by the Personalised Care Institute - and the chance to embed their skills within a supportive system and with a prepared public.

Managing Drug and Alcohol Problems conference

Yesterday, I gave the welcome address to over 260 delegates at the 25th joint RCGP & SMMGP 'Managing Drug and Alcohol Problems in Primary Care' Conference.

It is the largest event in the UK for GPs, shared care workers, nurses and other primary care staff, specialists, commissioners and researchers interested in and involved with the management of drug and alcohol users in primary care.

Held online for the first time, sessions ranged from whether lockdown has changed the way drugs are used, to ethnic and cultural inequalities in drugs and alcohol services and management of gambling problems in primary care.

Access to all sessions can be purchased for the next six months - all delegates will also continue to have online access to these resources.

RCGP National Elections 2021 

Please consider standing for College Council and take your opportunity to influence the future of the College and general practice.

Nominations for National Council Members will close at 12 noon next Wednesday, 31 March.  We are also seeking nominations for President as the brilliant Amanda Howe will be stepping down from her two-year tenure in November.

You can learn more about each role and to submit your self-nomination on the RCGP National and Council Elections microsite.

Please note that nominations for Honorary Secretary and Vice Chair for Professional Development and Standards will close at 12 noon on Tuesday 27 April.


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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