Learning resources and Observe GP

7 May 2020

While poetry is the economy and efficiency of language, sport to me is the economy and efficiency of movement. Ask any swimmer, golfer, cyclist or rower and they will know exactly what you mean.

I must confess I am personally struggling with lockdown. May and June are my favourite months of the year and I look forward to them not only because of the beauty of the countryside here but the start of the competitive sporting season.

Wellbeing in the spring

On the first of May in Newry Triathlon Club, it is the start of the outdoor swimming season and is marked with a first dip in Camlough lake. This invigorating, life-affirming, cobweb shaking event is great and while I can’t keep up with the likes of Finbarr or Maria McGrady it is an evening I look forward to all winter.

The Hill and Dales fell running race series starts in mid-April and I miss not meeting old friends and colleagues like Nigel Hart or Cathal McNiff at the start of races on a Thursday evening.

I love the early races where old friends and foes meet and, kitted out in shiny new GPS watches from the Christmas before, just like medical students before an exam, everyone downplays how much training they have done all winter! “I haven’t run a step since Christmas, honest...”

COVID-19 Hub and British Journal of General Practice resources

I wanted to focus today on Learning. The pandemic has encouraged us to value learning and education like never before. Using either our own College COVID-19 hub, or various sessions on Project Echo, or WhatsApp groups, with colleagues we are all learning at pace.

It was great to catch up with Professor Domhnall MacAuley during the week and to briefly hear his own plans for our own academic journal – The British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).

The Journal under Professor Roger Jones has risen to hold the highest impact factor in primary care research worldwide and Domhnall is working hard behind the scenes to update the Journal’s website and ensure it becomes a portal for communication. His job is to publish sound research papers and to use the journal to facilitate the translation of this best evidence into clinical practice.

If you are not an experienced academic, like me, please take a few minutes to have a good look around the website(s). BJGP now has two additional platforms to help stimulate debate and promote learning using papers, videos and interesting articles.

As the journal is held in such high esteem for primary care research, Domhnall and his team work hard to respond to the many submissions for publication. He currently has original papers to fill right up to October’s issue, but there are many submissions which don’t make the grade for publication, but nevertheless are helpful to GPs, like me, who are working with real patients.

BJGP Open helps fill this task and is worth following on Twitter. The new BJGP Life has lots more informal pieces and is well worth checking out.

Effect of lockdown on domestic abuse

This week’s cover story invites discussion on how we train GPs to perform remote consultations, but the article which really stood out for me was “Domestic Abuse in the time of Coronovirus.”

This article hits on many vital aspects of domestic abuse. We know domestic abuse is on the increase and in Northern Ireland Justice Minister Naomi Long revealed that we have already witnessed four cases of domestic homicide during the lockdown.

Added to that, police reports are showing that intimate partner violence incidents have risen, as have incidents committed by sons on parents. The article highlights the chilling and hugely worrying effects of coercive control and how a victim does not have to suffer physical injury to suffer abuse.

Naomi Long is in the process of introducing the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill to the Assembly. If you have issues or points of view you feel RCGPNI should contribute to this legislation, please contact me.

Professor Domhnall MacAuley's BJGP letter

Domhnall’s first editor’s letter is out now so please support him. It would be great to have some Northern Ireland input to BJGPLife, so if you have an idea that you would like to share send it in. If you want some help or guidance, drop me a line at the email below and we will see how we can support you.

A discussion on learning

I don’t know what learning means to all of you but to my twin boys (nine) it only means one thing – homework! On this theme, I would be very grateful if you would consider some light homework about some very important issues this weekend.
RCGP nationally is considering the various changes to our working lives as a result of COVID-19 and is having a debate on what has worked well, what we want to keep and what we dislike.
We are holding a discussion meeting with NI Council and our working groups on Monday evening (11 May 2020) to formulate our NI response so if you feel there are aspects you wish to highlight please feed them back to either myself or your local RCGPNI representative.

Observe GP

A significant role of RCGPNI is to promote the profession of General Practice and to encourage the brightest and the best doctors to join us.
This message can never be conveyed too early and it has become harder and harder for us to provide work experience to aspiring doctors in our surgeries so please take a few moments to view this fantastic portfolio of resources that RCGP nationally has worked on to facilitate this.
As we have been saying – we don’t just want to train any doctor, we want to new doctors to aspire to be “somebody’s doctor” and GP is definitely the place to be!


There are many resources to help support you if you are personally finding it difficult at this time so please talk to someone and ask for help if you need support.
The College is hosting a positive campaign – #RCGPTogether – to help promote your stories via social media and to show we are working together as one profession throughout the UK.
As part of this initiative we are hosting a series of online discussions for any member to attend. I co-hosted the first event with our Vice Chair Gary Howson and Chair Martin Marshall on technology. I am no technology expert but that is not the point – we want to share our experiences and hear about key issues you have faced in your GP life during the pandemic.
There are several other events due over the next few weeks we’ll keep you up to date on speakers and topics.


The timing of the technology discussion could not be better as we are busy collating our tech survey data - thank you to all who contributed. The initial data suggests we need more investment to support us do the important work we are doing so I will be highlighting this with the relevant bodies soon.

Completion of GP training

We now have some welcome news about our exam. The College has been working closely with all postgraduate bodies including the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA) and an agreement has been reached which will see ST3 doctors submit a recorded assessment.
This will help facilitate our colleagues sit their exam and hopefully join us in our workplaces later this year. I really appreciate all the patience shown by our ST1, 2 and 3 doctors during this time and am looking forward to seeing you virtually with our NIMDTA colleagues very soon.
The plans are to hold the AKT written exam in July so for our ST3 doctors the message is to keep studying!
I hope you all get a break over the bank holiday weekend and get some safe exercise.

Email: ChairNI@rcgp.org.uk
Twitter: @laurence903

Post written by

Dr Laurence Dorman, Chair of RCGP Northern Ireland

Dr Laurence Dorman took office in November 2019 after three years as Deputy Chair of Policy for RCGPNI. A GP principal in Mourne Family Surgery, Kilkeel, Co Down, since 2007, he is the fourth generation of GPs in his family. He was also, until recently, the Chair of Newry and District GP Federation. 

Laurence has particular interests in new ways of working in primary care, cancer care, and inspiring the next generation of GPs. He set up the successful 'Dear Colleague' initiative to improve the interface between primary and secondary care and has been a Strategic Advocate for Interface and Communication since September 2017.

During his time as Chair, he wants to support College members to ensure that the future of GP services is protected, supported and sustainable.


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