RCGP Scotland Health Inequalities Summit

11 September 2020

During my time as Chair, addressing persisting health inequalities in Scotland has been a key priority of mine.

As GPs, embedded within communities, offering contextual continuity of care across multiple interfaces, we have a unique and hugely valuable role to play in helping to mitigate against worsening health inequalities, and I have been keen to further explore how we can be recognised and supported to allow this role to reach its full potential.

Last week I chaired the third and final RCGP Scotland Health Inequalities Summit, which has brought together key stakeholders from across general practice, public health, health and social care partnerships and Scottish Government to speak honestly and constructively about how we address this historically challenging issue.

I have viewed the role of the RCGP in this as a 'conversation broker', facilitating a coming together of different organisations, with different experiences, viewpoints and circles of influence.

Within the first meeting we found areas of common ground, and the meetings, although challenging, have been incredibly rewarding. We have sought to specifically explore four key areas:

  • What metrics are needed to help understand the problem and monitor improvement?
  • How do we up-scale the existing evidence base for 'what works' in general practice to improve health outcomes for the most socio-economically vulnerable?
  • What is the best way to resource the work needed to address health inequalities and target according to need?
  • How do we maximise existing 'levers' within the system to address health inequalities?

As is always the case with these meetings, the agenda was full and the discussions wide-ranging and useful.

We received a presentation from the newly established Public Health Scotland on their work in this area, and discussion focused on how to enable better partnership and interface working with general practice to improve population health.

We discussed the specific remit of Primary Care Improvement Plans to address health inequalities within localities and the specific remit of GP Clusters and the resources needed to support them in their work - articulated in the joint guidance published in 2019 (526 KB PDF).

Scottish Government Short Life Working Group on Health Inequalities

I am proud of the progress that this group has made in a relatively short period of time and it is really important that the thinking and collaboration that this forum has enabled can be captured and progressed, despite the formal meetings coming to an end.

Given this, it was great to hear from colleagues in Scottish Government’s Primary Care Division that they plan to establish their own Short Life Working Group on tackling health inequalities, and are keen to draw from the expertise and membership of the group, alongside others.

Plans for the group are at an early stage, but I will endeavour to keep you posted on progress when I hear more.

Although the formal group may have come to the end of its term, the College’s work on tackling health inequalities is far from over and I have authored a paper on 'Poverty, Health Inequalities and the Role of General Practice' for RCGP UK Council later this month to further discuss and debate the role of GPs and of the RCGP in supporting members to address health inequalities.

Remote consulting survey

Finally, I wanted to let you know about a short survey that the College is currently running to gauge views from the profession on delivering remote consultations

This is an area that we are keen to seek your views on, given the significant shift towards remote consulting over the COVID-19 pandemic.

We fully recognise the significant benefits that this approach has offered in terms of safety, flexibility, access and reduction in unnecessary travel, but we are also interested in understanding user experience to gain a greater insight into the potential long-term impacts that switching to this method of consultation may have for patients, clinicians and the NHS.

The survey does not take long to complete and will remain open until early next week - please do contribute your views if you are able to.

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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