Is your GP practice veteran-friendly?

4 March 2022

This week I went to Sandhurst to witness the ‘Passing Out’ parade of a medical colleague who has now become a Major in the Army. What a time to sign up, and how proud I was of her and her achievements. I felt so moved when in the chapel I saw the thousands of names etched into the columns of those men and women who have sacrificed their lives for us.

Being there also reminded me of the work we have done, here at the College, under the leadership of Robin Simpson, Professor of Military Primary Health Care, Jonathan Leach the College’s recent Joint Honorary Secretary, and one of our past Chairs, Steve Field, in improving the responsiveness of practices to care for veterans.

Robin has developed a veteran-friendly practice accreditation programme designed to help us, in our practices provide better care for veterans. It is not hard to become ‘veteran-friendly’ and the accreditation programme helps fulfil the NHS commitment towards the Armed Forces Covenant. To date, 1,200 GP Practices are accredited, and it would be good if more joined up.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if in these troubled times, we could all do what we can to make sure veterans and their families receive the best possible care, starting with the simple question, ‘Have you ever served in the Armed Forces?’

Accreditation is a straightforward process and more details can be found here.

Latest updates from College Chair Martin Marshall

Situation in Ukraine

I was struck on Wednesday to receive a message from the Chair of the Royal College of Pathologists to all Royal College leaders asking for help sourcing body bags to be sent to Ukraine. It really brought home the reality and the horrors of the current situation.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has issued this statement, which, as a member of the Academy, the RCGP fully supports. We’re also joining a number of other Colleges by lighting our building at 30 Euston Square blue and yellow in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. It is easy to feel helpless in such situations, and whilst what we can do is limited, there are ways we can show support – and we would urge anyone who feels able to make a donation to the Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal.

We also know that when war and conflict is so prominent, it can trigger episodes of anxiety and PTSD for ex-military personnel and their families. With Clare’s message above in mind, and if you haven’t already, please do consider making your practice veteran friendly accredited. We’ve also produced a new podcast episode on the transition from military to NHS care.

Workforce planning: news from the House of Lords

Members of the House of Lords yesterday voted in favour of an amendment to the Health and Care Bill which calls for better workforce planning. The College and over 100 other health organisations are supporting this. The amendment introduces a requirement on the government to publish regular assessments of how many staff are needed in the NHS and social care, now and in the future.

While the legislation only affects England, all MPs will have a chance to vote on it and if passed, it is likely to influence workforce planning across the NHS.

The Bill will now return to the House of Commons to vote on any changes that have been made to the Bill in the Lords.

I'm asking you to please email your MP today to ask them to support this amendment. All you need to do is input your postcode, the rest of the work is done for you.

Future of general practice

Thinking about the future of general practice is a hot topic at the moment. The Health and Social Care Select Committee inquiry into this is expected to start soon, and you may remember reports a few weeks ago that the Health Secretary is planning his own review, in part looking at the working model of NHS general practice, which we responded to.

Today, the Policy Exchange think tank have published a report that includes some radical ideas about the future of our profession. It is good to see recognition that GPs and our teams are working under considerable pressures to do our best for patients, and there are some good ideas included: not least that an urgent rescue package is needed, including significant investment in premises and technology. But there are also ideas that raise alarm bells, particularly in terms of how they would impact on our patients and our relationships with them.

When we’re thinking about the future of our profession, we do need to think innovatively, even radically – but we don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Much about general practice works, and it works well for patients and the NHS, it just needs the appropriate support – and what you can’t get away from is that the underlying issue is staffing. If the workforce crisis isn’t addressed, these other ideas are largely null and void. Read our response.

Congratulations to PANORAMIC!

Congratulations must be sent to the PANORAMIC clinical trial team, our NIHR colleagues and our brilliant Clinical Lead for Research, Nick Thomas for their fantastic achievement in reaching 12,000 recruits in just 85 days. This milestone makes PANORAMIC the fastest ever recruiting treatment (CTIMP) clinical trial.

The College has an active role in supporting the Covid-19 treatment platform trial, and so we celebrate this success and the testament of the power of Primary Care research.

Find out more and get involved (PDF file).

Vaccination as a condition of deployment (VCOD) rethink welcomed

The outcome of the Government’s consultation on ending the vaccination requirements in care homes and in all CQC registered settings has been published. Of those surveyed 90% of respondents agreed the regulations should be revoked.

While the College remains committed to vaccination against Covid-19, we welcome the results of the consultation.

Endometriosis Action Month

This month is Endometriosis UK’s Endometriosis Action Month. The charity has eight key asks to improve the care, lives and working conditions of patients with endometriosis – one of which is to ask healthcare professionals to share useful resources to raise awareness of the condition. More information is available on the Endometriosis UK website.

The College has worked with a number of organisations, including Endometriosis UK, to develop resources on women’s health, including this menstrual wellbeing toolkit. We’ve also developed a Women’s Health toolkit and a Women’s Health library.

Setting the record straight on eating disorders training

To mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week, the charity Beat is calling for more training on eating disorders at medical schools – however, it made claims that GPs receive little or no training on eating disorders, which we had to set straight.

Vice Chair Gary Howsam explained that GPs’ training does not finish at medical school, and that even after foundation year training and GP specialty training, we will continue to undertake continued professional development. Our response was featured in news stories on both the BBC and The Telegraph.

It’s always distressing to hear about patients who have had a poor experience of healthcare – and the College understands the importance of continuous training and would welcome good quality resources. But it’s very important that people understand how highly trained GPs are. It’s easy for organisations raising awareness of a medical condition to take a swipe at GP training without realising we have the broadest curriculum but the shortest training – and we’re trying our best.

Post written by

Dame Clare Gerada, President

Having first trained in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital, Dr Clare Gerada followed her father’s footsteps and became a general practitioner, working in her practice in South London for more than thirty years.

Over this time, alongside her clinical practice, she has held several national leadership positions including in 2010, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, only the second women in its 55-year history to hold this position.  She has led the way in reforming how drug users are managed in general practice and was awarded an MBE for his services to medicine and substance misuse in the 2000 Birthday honours.

Since she has also led the development of a service for doctors and dentists with mental health problems, establishing and leading NHS Practitioner Health since 2008. This has been, not only a world first, but massively impactful, particularly on young doctors and consequently on the patients they look after and the teams in which they work.  The service was awarded Outstanding by CQC rating in March 2019. Currently Clare not only still leads NHS Practitioner Health but has, in 2020 established a service for problem gamblers; Chairs the newly formed registered charity, Doctors in Distress, is co-chair of the NHS Assembly.

In 2020 she was made a Dame in the Queen’s birthday honours, making her, we believe, the first Maltese woman to receive this honour.  In November 2021 she became the President of the RCGP (only the second women to hold both Chair and President of the College in its 70 year history).  She is a highly respected NHS professional, whose views are listened to by NHS professionals and patients alike.

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