Being a truly representative College

3 July 2020

I’ve been reflecting a lot in recent weeks and months on the importance of what it means to be 'representative'.

In light of recent events, organisations around the world are looking inwardly at their leadership and representative structures to assess whether they reflect the make-up of our wider society and, where applicable, members that they represent.

RCGP strives to be as accountable to, and representative of, our members as possible. However, undoubtedly, like many other organisations, we aren’t perfect in this regard.

There are things that we could do to improve.

Being as representative as possible

Although the voluntary nature of much of the work that members do on behalf of the College presents a logistical and financial barrier to some who would otherwise wish to participate, it is vital that we try to mitigate against this wherever possible.

Perhaps this may be easier in the future with more digital ways of working.

We need to try and ensure as level a playing field as possible so that any GP, regardless of their personal circumstances, can become involved with the work of their College, if we wish to be as representative as possible.

Two years ago, I wrote a discussion paper during my time as a member of the College Committee of Medical Ethics entitled ‘Are our representatives representative?'

I outlined a number of ethical principles to explore why this matters:

  • Ensuring equity and justice by striving for a level playing field.
  • Ensuring sustainability by engaging with our whole membership.
  • Avoiding reputational risk of being perceived as non-progressive or non-representative.
  • Ensuring validity of views given, and decisions made on behalf of those who we represent.
  • Avoiding an inverse representation law where those most in need of representation are least able to achieve it.
  • Avoiding worsening of health inequalities if those working with marginalised or disenfranchised groups are less able to become involved and make their voices, and those they care for, heard.

These themes not only link to the work the College has been doing around its Volunteer Strategy but will also be more fully explored and developed in the coming weeks as part of our revised Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy and our BAME Action Plan.

Diversity

The diversity that exists in general practice is undoubtedly one of our profession's greatest strengths.

As your membership body, we are continually striving to ensure that we understand your circumstances, your views and your challenges in all the work that we do to represent you.

One way in which we do this is through adding our collective voice to consultations on various issues which have an impact on the work of general practice and our patients.

These consultations range from specific clinical areas to broader policy areas, such as workforce challenges in the health and social care system.

Prescribing and dispensing medication

You may have seen in the press this week that The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee published its report into the supply and demand for medicines, which was an inquiry that we provided substantive written and oral evidence to at the turn of the year.

The issues surrounding the prescribing and dispensing of medication are plentiful and require a whole system approach to fully explore and rectify, and we were therefore encouraged by the Committee’s focus on this complex area.

Unfortunately, we were left disappointed by the tone of the Committee’s final report and particularly its concluding remarks that clinicians and other medical professionals simply "reach for their prescription pad" when considering care options for patients.

We believe this misrepresents the challenges that our profession faces with regards to the prescribing of medicines and perpetuates a blame culture which is neither helpful or fair.

While there are many recommendations in the report that we fully support and look forward to helping to address, particularly around e-prescribing, we felt it necessary to issue a formal response to the Committee’s report expressing our concerns and we plan to raise our concerns further with the Committee’s Convenor.

Getting involved

If any of you are interested in becoming more involved in the work of your College, I would heartily encourage you to get in touch with your local Faculty Board.

We will also be holding elections for ballot positions on our Scottish Council later this year and again, I would encourage anybody who is interested in adding their voice to our work to put their name forward and get involved.

It is an enormous privilege for me to have had the opportunity to work alongside such dedicated, articulate, passionate and wise GP colleagues, and has definitely been the highlight for me during my time as Chair.

We are our membership.


Post written by

Dr Carey Lunan, Chair RCGP Scotland

Dr Carey Lunan is a GP partner in one of Edinburgh's Deep End practices and is the current Chair of RCGP Scotland.

Prior to this, she held the role of Executive Officer for Patients and Public and Interface working. She also sits on the RCGP Ethics Committee.

Her priorities during her time as Chair include a focus on practitioner wellbeing, improving the interface between primary and secondary care, and growing and retaining the GP workforce.

She has made tackling health inequalities a high priority and has consistently called for the need to engage the public in a national conversation about the realistic role of the modern NHS and the importance of collective social responsibility.

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