Healthcare is about people

29 October 2021

I want to tell you about a new drug. It’s been trialled over many decades in many different countries on millions of people and is proven to work. It improves patient experience, compliance with medical advice and patient outcomes and reduces mortality. It seems to work for many different diseases and is one of the most effective interventions we know for multi-morbidity. It improves clinician morale and job satisfaction, and it reduces ED attendance, hospital admissions and overall healthcare costs.

What is this wonder drug I hear you ask? Presumably one of the new gene therapies?

Well, no, actually. It’s got a strange name: the-trusting-relationship-between-a-patient-and-their-clinician.

The UK is investing billions of pounds in the development of new pharmaceutical interventions and at the same time making it more and more difficult for clinicians and patients to get to know each other and to use that knowledge to improve care.

Healthcare is about people.

Latest updates from your College

GP pressures and patient access

Tuesday saw a 'Westminster Hall' debate in Parliament on GP appointment availability. The College shared a briefing paper with MPs ahead of the debate, outlining the intense pressures GPs are working under every day to deliver patient care - and what we think the Government needs to do to address these challenges urgently. As expected, the topic of access to face-to-face appointments was prominent but it was refreshing to hear some MPs acknowledge the benefits of remote care. Several MPs called for improvements to technology and infrastructure to enable care in general practice to be delivered more effectively remotely.

It was also good to hear MPs from across the political spectrum expressing gratitude for the work of GPs and our teams, and increased awareness of the unfair treatment the profession has been subjected to in recent months.

Just how hard GP teams are working was clear to see when NHS Digital's latest figures on general practice consultations in England were published yesterday. They showed more than 28m consultations in September, with 43% held on the same day they were requested. This is over 2m more appointments than the same period in 2019, 5m more than August, and 17.4m - six in 10 - were conducted face-to-face. Predictably, some sections of the media persisted in reporting this in a negative light, but it was good to see some more balanced media coverage. If you have chance it's worth listening to this Guardian Today in Focus podcast that gives a very good overview of the situation in general practice at the moment.

The challenges in general practice and the College's recommendations to the government are outlined in our GP Action Plan for England which many of you have shared with your MPs already. It's clear that our message is getting across, but please help us inform more MPs about the challenges in general practice in England, and the hard work that you and your practice are doing. All you have to do is enter your postcode, the rest of the work is done for you.


As we approach the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow starting this Sunday, it’s an opportunity to think about the impact climate change has on health. As a College, our UK Council has declared a climate emergency, and we’ve taken steps such as divesting from fossil fuels, but there is clearly more we can do as a College, and as a profession, to be more sustainable. Find out more about the College’s work, including links to the Green Impact for Health toolkit and Greener Practices initiative.

This cause has been championed superbly by our former President Terry Kemple, who is now the College’s UK representative on sustainability, climate change and green issues, and by representatives from across the UK: Aarti Bansal in England, whose star turn bringing sustainability to the fore at our Annual Conference as part of our NHS Question Time panel is still available; Munro Stewart in Scotland; Sarah Williams in Wales; Bláthnaid Carlin in Northern Ireland. Ahead of COP, they have penned the Opinion piece in the latest edition of GP Frontline asking whether the conference will be a ‘good COP or bad COP’. I’ll be participating in a meeting run by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, of which the RCGP is a member.

In RCGP Scotland, sustainability is Joint Chairs Chris Williams and David Shackles' policy and campaigns priority for their term in office and they have launched a proposed action plan to achieve Net-Zero emissions by 2045 as part of their 2021 election manifesto pledge (594 KB PDF). They are now calling for Scottish health boards to implement sustainable solutions such as e-prescribing and low-carbon inhalers that would help to reduce waste and unnecessary journeys that cause vehicle emissions.

There have also been a number of recent press stories concerning RCGP Scotland's work to do more to reduce the carbon footprint of the NHS.

Ahead of the COP26, Chris and David have been working alongside the Scottish Government to discuss solutions such as an upgrade of digital technology for patient appointments, which could help to reduce daily travel and in turn minimise unnecessary CO2 emissions.

Sudden Bereavement Support Pilot launch

The sudden passing of a friend or colleague can be a difficult and traumatic experience, which may be made harder to cope with given the pressures of continuing to run a busy practice.

The RCGP Primary Care Development team are pleased to announce the launch of our pilot programme, funded by NHS England. This programme will support a small number of practices in the immediate period following the sudden death of a key member. In this instance, a key member refers to a partner or practice manager whose impact on the practice is considered to be critical.

Social prescribing - RCGP Live

Social prescribing has been implemented nationwide, with some variation according to setting and resource. However, questions remain about the role social prescribing can and should play in general practice to meet challenges, including reducing GP workload and addressing health inequalities.

This was the topic of our latest RCGP Live webinar on Wednesday evening. Chaired by College Vice Chair for External Affairs Gary Howsam, the panel is made up of Nicola Gitsham, Head of Social Prescribing for NHS England, Anant Jani, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, and Jaweeda Idoo, a GP in Greater Manchester.

The RCGP and University of Oxford have developed a set of observatories to provide insights into the need for and uptake of social prescribing across different demographic groups and how this has been affected by COVID-19. The panel discusses findings from the observatories and what this could mean for the implementation of social prescribing in general practice.

You can watch the discussion now.

New online member forum

The RCGP has launched a new online member forum for members to easily find and connect with each other. This pilot focuses on conversations around equality, diversity and inclusion in general practice, health technology and a special area for all First5s. RCGP members can log in with their membership email address and password.

Join the conversation on the forum.

Research and Surveillance Centre - sign up now

The RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC) is a network of over 1900 general practices across England and Wales. The Centre collects and monitors pseudonymised data (in particular respiratory illness) and flu vaccine effectiveness.

By joining the network, you can:

  • contribute towards public health surveillance
  • take part in research and quality improvement of health practice
  • access eLearning and education
  • gain financial rewards for taking part in research projects. The majority of our studies are on the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) portfolio.

As a bottom-up, professionally led network, the Oxford-RCGP partnership is run by primary care for patient benefit and by joining, you will have a direct relationship with ongoing research that influences national health policy.

To learn more, check out our recent webinar.

Mandatory vaccination

I mentioned last week that we had submitted our response to the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation on making vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector. You can now read our response in full.

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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