Hopes for a happier new year

8 January 2021

Inevitably it was a little subdued, but I hope that you were able to enjoy a pleasant Christmas and New Year. 

The variant strains of coronavirus leave us once again in a position of UK-wide lockdown. Some of the data about the spread at present is very concerning.

It is pleasing that the very high rates seen in South Wales seem to be declining but worrying that the situation in NE Wales remains critical.

None of us imagined that all would be put right overnight as the vaccine rollout began. Nor was the clock striking midnight to bring down the curtain on 2020 going to be any more than the beginning of another busy day for the health profession.

Yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel and if the nation can pull together as it did during the first lockdown.

We have a real opportunity to make big inroads into controlling the virus from these shores during 2021.

Many members have expressed a desire to get involved with the vaccination programme and I’m pleased to see that health boards have started to engage with this important resource.

I appreciate that decisions about the extent of GP involvement rest with each of the health boards and while I can understand the value of some decentralisation, it can make it more challenging for the College to actively engage as much as we would hope to.

You will recall we wrote to the Health Minister on this subject in December and next week Peter and I will be meeting with him to discuss the vaccine roll out programme. We'll be joined by Dr Rob Morgan who is leading on the vaccine response for the College in Wales.

Our aim in these discussions is not to try to dramatically alter the Welsh Government's plans or to revisit decisions made in the past and now implemented.

Instead, we want to demonstrate how Welsh Government engaging closely with the College when developing such a strategy not only gives them access to input from the expertise of our members but also potentially allows us to amplify their message in a consistent way which will boost understanding of the plans among GPs and patients alike.

We also have our very first meeting with the recently appointed Minister for Mental Health upcoming next week.

We will be using that opportunity to raise concerns both about the impact of COVID-19 on patients’ mental health and the wellbeing of GPs and their teams.

In addition to our meeting with the Minister, I'm grateful for the work of Dr Shanti Karupiah who has been representing the College on the National Mental Health Partnership Board.

Finally, I also wanted to reference a further letter which was jointly signed by RCGP Cymru Wales and GPC Wales.

We felt there was an urgent need to write to the Health Minister to voice concerns about emergency care and ambulance availability.

Our letter was constructive and acknowledged that the solution cuts across many aspects of the health service rather than being an issue which the Wales Ambulance Service Trust alone could rectify.

However, the strain placed upon emergency care during December demonstrated that the current processes were insufficient to maintain the expected standard of care.

This requires urgent executive level leadership to put in place protocols which will allow for a sustainable service that our patients rely upon.

Post written by

Dr Mair Hopkin, Joint Chair of RCGP Wales

Dr Mair Hopkin qualified in 1980 and was a partner at the Old School Surgery in Pontyclun until 2019. She has served as Chair and Provost of the South East Wales Faculty, as well as being Faculty Representative to RCGP’s UK Council.

Mair has a keen interest in child development and children's and women’s health. She introduced a Well Baby clinic before it became part of the GP contract, and has co-authored a book on child health development in Wales. She has also developed an interest in medical education. She is currently an Associate Dean in the Wales Deanery.

She married a farmer and lived on a working farm for three decades. She has three children, one of whom is a GP, and four grandchildren. She is a Welsh learner.

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