Looking forward

4 December 2020

Light at the end of the tunnel

It has been a tumultuous year and while we will spend much time reviewing what has happened during the pandemic and hopefully applying the hard-learned lessons, we still need to look to the future.

This is now something that we can do with the approval of the first COVID-19 vaccination, there is now some light at the end of the tunnel, and we are surer now that this is not a train coming the other way!

The future presents quite a challenge. We will be assisting with the vaccination for COVID-19, as well as getting on with our very busy 'day job'.

I am acutely aware that we have a GP workforce that is exhausted and has worked as hard anyone in the NHS, yet we have come up against unfair criticism of being perceived as closed over this time.

This is a criticism that as a College we have been sure to counter at every opportunity. In my own practice, our surgery staff went six months with no public holidays yet have received little national recognition either.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge 'thank you' to all of you and your staff who have worked tirelessly in 2020, we hugely value your contribution to the national COVID-19 response.

GP recruitment and retention

With an eye on the future, RCGP Scotland’s GP Recruitment and Retention Advisory Group has started meeting again.

This Advisory Group has representatives from the Scottish Government, Medical Schools, the GMC, RCGP First5, Out of Hours (OOH) and from P3, our patient representative group.

Perhaps the use of virtual meetings will be an enabler for this group, given the workload and time constraints of its membership. 

We face a huge challenge post-COVID-19, given the issues I have outlined above, and the Advisory Group will among other things, be looking at what is needed to help counter the negative impression of the GP role in the pandemic.

Additionally, this group gives a forum for oversight and provides an opportunity to highlight other issues such as monitoring recruitment numbers, identifying barriers to GPs wishing to remain working, and proposing solutions.

At our recent meeting we noted that although our GPST fill rate was healthy, the actual number of posts is over 100 short of the 400 we need annually to achieve our target of 800 additional GPs by 2028.

The pausing of the GP Fellowship programmes this year was also discussed and we are writing to ask that additional posts are funded for next year, as GP Fellowships are a vital route for future GP Academics and leaders.

COVID-19 has starkly shown the need for good data and understanding about general practice and primary care workload.

NHS England spends around £50 million per year supporting academic general practice, we are very far short of this figure in Scotland.

The Advisory Group also aims to promote general practice as a positive career choice, and this is helped by the acceptance of the recommendations within the Gillies report which outlines plans to increase the teaching time spent by medical students in primary care to 25% of the overall curriculum.

Work is underway on the implementation of this important target and although there are significant challenges to reaching it, given the constraints on time and space faced by practices, it is vital that we all try to achieve this as exposure to the clinical richness, relationship-based care and variety of general practice will be a great recruiting sergeant for future GPs..

Festive period - Out of Hours and COVID Hubs

Before we get to this, we still have the last few laps of the pandemic to run.

With the festive season approaching, there is still a need to help where we can with OOH shifts, staffing COVID-19 Hubs and making sure that we have all our KIS and ACP information up to date to assist colleagues who see patients on our behalf over the public holidays.

We are keen to ensure that finding the relevant information for GPs who wish to take up additional OOH and COVID-19 Hubs' shifts over the festive period is made as easy as possible and we were pleased to feed in to the development of this two-sider FAQ (87.2 KB DOC) which aims to do just that and contains essential information and contacts in each Health Board area to make this process easier. 

NES has announced that any GP ST3 trainees who wish to do so can also help by taking up paid shifts over this time, should they have the capacity to do so.

These additional shifts are not mandatory, will not count to the existing 72-hour requirement and will need a discussion with their Educational Supervisor prior to agreeing to take on these sessions to ensure that there is no impact on training. See more details (30.3 KB PDF) on this.

Thank you!

It has been a staggeringly quick three years in my post as Deputy Chair (Policy) for RCGP Scotland, topped off by a global pandemic this year, so it has not been dull!

I would like to thank my wife Donna and colleagues at Scotstown Medical Practice for their huge support which has enabled me to undertake a fascinating, challenging and perhaps surprisingly enjoyable job.

I have been privileged to work with great people in Scottish Council under Carey’s brilliant leadership.

I have tried to champion the 'cause' of GPs and will continue to do so by supporting my very able replacement, Dr Catriona Morton, who, I am certain, will do a fantastic job.

I have mentioned before the RCGP Scotland team that has kept things going, despite huge adversity, and again huge thanks to all of the RCGP Scotland staff for their fantastic work, the RCGP is lucky to have them working for the organisation!

May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a better future in 2021!


Post written by

Dr Alasdair Forbes, Deputy Chair (Policy) of RCGP Scotland

Dr Forbes has been a GP partner at his Aberdeen GP practice since 1994, serving the suburban population of north Aberdeen and the rural population of Aberdeenshire.

Alongside working as a GP, and providing a minor surgery service for his patients, Dr Forbes is a lead trainer in his practice and has tutored undergraduate medical school students.

He is passionate about growing and retaining the GP workforce and chairs the College’s Recruitment and Retention Advisory Group. Dr Forbes has been involved with RCGP Scotland for many years, holding a number of positions at local and national board levels.

Dr Forbes also chairs his local Faculty Board in North East Scotland.

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