Having very little certainty or autonomy over the situations wrought by COVID-19 has been a huge challenge

4 September 2020

I am spending a lot of my time as President trying to help us prepare for the psychological consequences of COVID-19 - as the societal disruption, anguish and angst will run for even longer than the pandemic itself. Lots of people are saying "we need to be resilient".

Resilient people stay calm under pressure. They don’t expect to win all the time, and accept that not everything is under their control. But they keep their eye on the goal, plan ways to get there, get others to help them, and learn from the challenges.
Hearing that in month six of the COVID-19 pandemic, my reaction sometimes is "easier said than done!" I have also heard many of my GP colleagues say: "Yes, it’s good to be optimistic, caring for yourself and others, keeping going, managing stress, but... did you really expect your life to be like this?"

Particularly for GPs, whose role is to help get control over the unknown and make sense of what needs to be done to help people, having very little certainty or autonomy over the situations wrought by COVID-19 has been a huge challenge.

All of us have lost life opportunities - and while for me that has meant no trips to visit members and Faculties, no hosting graduation ceremonies, no conferences or meetings with other leaders, for some it has meant losses of jobs, career progressions, or even loss of health and loved ones. So, the risks to our resilience are real, and for some are huge.
What can help? At the personal level, it really does matter to build into each day times to act, times to problem solve, times to share worries and negative feelings, and times to change focus - to relax, exercise, and nourish yourself physically and emotionally.

These simple psychological principles also work for teams and households, as well as individuals - sharing workload, organising 20-minute huddles, keeping the troubleshooting to specific slots in the day...

It’s helpful to identify a few people as 'buddies' and 'wellbeing leads' (or whatever words work for you!) who are prepared to be confidantes and want you to reach out as needed. The wellbeing resources on the RCGP website will also stand us in good stead - please check them out, and build them into the next phase. 

We also need to change the stresses in the system - that’s where the advocacy role of the RCGP comes in, and we are working hard on that at lots of levels.

But, we can take some control over our own routines - that way our resilience will be maximised, and the threats to our own psychological wellbeing minimised. Please reach out to us as needed.

Post written by

Professor Amanda Howe, RCGP President

Amanda Howe qualified as MRCGP in 1983, has worked as a GP since 1984, and currently practices at Bowthorpe Surgery in Norwich. She is also Professor of Primary Care at the University of East Anglia. She has a wealth of experience within RCGP, where she has previously held the positions of Vice Chair of Professional Development and Honorary Secretary. She is a Board member of the East Anglia Faculty and was their Provost 2016-2019. She is also the immediate past President of WONCA - the World Organisation of Family Doctors - in which role she promoted the crucial role of GPs in running effective and efficient health systems.

Amanda has a substantive track record in educational innovation and research, and has led the GP teaching for the Norwich based MB BS since its inception. She is passionate about enhancing training opportunities for medical students and young doctors outside hospital settings to strengthen patient care in community settings. Her research interests include mental health, professionalism and resilience, and effective empowerment of patients and professionals in care, education and research. Her wish as President is to bring her experience to support members, and continue our learning together.

COVID-19 update from your College

Use your vote in the RCGP Council Elections

Voting for the RCGP Council Elections is open and we’re delighted that we have such a large and diverse group of nominees standing. You can read their election statements and cast your vote now.

This is your chance to shape the debates that RCGP Council has and the policy that the College develops and advocates for. Voting closes in one week’s time, so please vote by 12 noon, Friday 11 September 2020.

Appraisal update

All members should have received an email from RCGP Chair Martin Marshall yesterday outlining what the new Appraisal 2020 system means for GPs. This follows the news from NHS England that appraisals would begin again from next month following suspension during the pandemic.

The College has worked hard to ensure the process is as straightforward  as possible and the new system involves significant reductions in the pre-appraisal documentation required and an increased emphasis on the support doctors need. Read Martin’s message.

Let us know your experiences of treating 'long-COVID'

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and GPs and our teams will be dealing with the aftermath of the first wave, at the same time as we’re preparing for a potential second. One thing that is becoming more apparent is that some patients are suffering from symptoms for long periods of time - estimates suggest this is about 10% of patients.

We want to be able to support you to deliver the best possible care for patients with so-called 'long-COVID' - and represent your needs to Government on your behalf. Please take a few minutes to fill in this survey to help us gather evidence in this area and an understanding of the type of support you would find useful.

New scheme aims to strengthen links between GPs and community pharmacists

We’re pleased to announce our new collaboration with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education, coordinated by Health Education England and NHSE&I. We’ll be rolling out CPD workshops to support community pharmacists to deliver care to patients with minor illnesses by developing patient-facing consultation skills, with the ambition of further embedding community pharmacy in urgent care pathways.

Community pharmacists have always been an enormous support to GPs and our teams, and these online interactive courses also aim to strengthen the working relationship between general practice and community pharmacy.

Please share news of this scheme with your networks.

PHE alert re: PCV13

We received an important message from Public Health England this week that we’d like to share.

In January this year there was a change to the routine childhood immunisation schedule (568 KB PDF). Prior to this, all babies were offered two primary doses of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13), at 8 and 16 weeks of age and a booster at 12 months, however for babies born on or after 1 January 2020, this changed to one primary dose at 12 weeks of age followed by the booster dose at 12 months.

PHE has received reports that some babies born on or after 1 January 2020 have inadvertently received a dose of PCV13 at 8 weeks of age. As the immunogenicity of a single dose of PCV13 is lower when given at a younger age, any dose given before 12 weeks of age to infants born on or after 1 January 2020 should not be counted and another dose should be given once they reach 12 weeks of age, allowing at least four weeks between the two PCV13 doses. Further information for healthcare practitioners on the schedule change can be found in this document (403 KB PDF).

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