Listening to GPs during COVID-19

27 March 2020

We were in the media again yesterday after I wrote to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock seeking clarity around gaps in the provision and use of personal protection equipment (PPE).

This is the number one issue for our members, judging by the feedback we are receiving via our COVID-19 email, and was also a recurring theme of our regular catch-up with faculty chairs on Tuesday evening - and understandably so. It is crucial that GPs have the confidence to see patients without worrying about ourselves or our team members contracting COVID-19.

You can read the press statement and letter and we have subsequently been told that new guidance for GPs is imminent.

Putting across our message

It’s not my style to shout or stamp my feet, particularly at a time of national crisis, but please be assured that I am listening to your concerns and that lots of work is going on behind the scenes - albeit virtually at the moment - to make sure that the GP perspective is heard and that we get across the message that this crisis is not just about hospitals.

We continue to engage regularly with politicians and policy makers and are having weekly meetings with the minister for primary care in England, Jo Churchill, and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, which are a good opportunity for raising the concerns of grassroots GPs.

Influencing policy

I met Jo earlier today and we had a good discussion, not just on PPE but also about the importance of reliable technology during the current crisis, particularly for remote and rural GPs. I raised the concerns I’m hearing generally about VPN tokens, access to patient records, and having sufficient bandwidth to be able to work from home, and she assures me that these issues are being addressed by the ministerial team.

I’m also having a weekly catch-up with the chairs of the College in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - Carey Lunan, Mair Hopkin and Peter Saul, and Laurence Dorman - who are all doing brilliant work on COVID-19 with their own administrations to ensure our members are supported and listened to, right across the UK.

Online forums and resources

We are continuing to work on our COVID-19 web portal, which now has a huge range of GP-specific resources available free of charge to all GPs.

This week, we launched a member forum specifically on COVID-19 where you can ask questions and get the latest practical resources and information, as well as using the space to connect with other GPs right across the UK on a more social level.

You just need to enter your usual RCGP login details, and then you will be asked to create a username, which other forum users will be able to see. Thousands of you have already signed up and we hope it will continue to be useful resource in these times. Thank you to our President Amanda Howe and Marcus Baw, Chair of the College’s Informatics Group, for making this happen so quickly.

Your questions to the dedicated COVID-19 email and on the forum are reaching us in considerable volume and we’re working to get you the answers as quickly as possible, but please bear with us as some of the issues are quite complicated and can take time.

I have produced another two vlogs;on PPE and workload, and would like to thank Honorary Treasurer Steve Mowle and his husband Jeremy for the huge amount of time and effort they are investing in putting these together in the evening and at weekends. We will keep these coming and please do suggest topics you would find useful.

Clinical trial of repurposed medicines for COVID-19

Finally, this week, an appeal for your help.

I have previously mentioned the phenomenal epidemiological work being done by our Research Surveillance Centre based at the University of Oxford. The Centre is already working with over 100 practices and urgently needs 200 more to sign up and take part in a clinical trial of repurposing medicines that could mitigate the effects of COVID-19. This has the potential to be a real game changer for the pandemic and could save countless lives. If you think you can help, please get in touch. Despite the clinical pressures, practices across the country are responding to these calls to support research; the professionalism of our members is truly remarkable.

Stay safe and thank you for all you are doing in these worrying times.


Post by

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of RCGP Council

Martin Marshall is a GP in Newham in East London and Professor of Healthcare Improvement at UCL, Programme Director for Primary Care at UCL Partners. He leads Improvement Science London, an initiative to promote and embed the science of improvement across the health service and academic sectors. He is immediate past Vice Chair (External Affairs) of the RCGP.
 

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