Thinking about 'what if?'

14 August 2020

The question 'what if?' can be a passageway to a conversation long into the evening as we imagine an alternative future.

If John Lennon hadn’t met Paul McCartney, how different could our music have been, considering the long-lasting influence of The Beatles?

If Michael Portillo had become Prime Minister, who would now present our railway journey programmes, and would he have gone to the dispatch box in those suits?

I’ll steer clear of the 'what if?' questions around Brexit.

Asking 'what if?' can be a mournful sigh as to what could have been, but it can also be about considering what the future could be. So, for this blog post I chose the latter.

What if, post-COVID-19, GPs have more control over how they spend their working lives?

There is a need to achieve an appropriate balance between remote consultation and face to face.

I know our members are very cautious about the government perceiving remote consultation as the default and us losing valuable time in an environment in which many of our patients are comfortable.

However, we do know that remote consultation for some cases is here to stay, and while there will be fluctuations as we continue to do battle with COVID-19, in time we might find GPs able to establish a work/life balance that they prefer, thus making use of remote consultation.

What if the next generation have a greater appreciation of the great outdoors?

I wonder how many parents who have become exhausted with telling children to get off video games suddenly saw the value in them as a distraction during the early stages of lockdown.

The best way to ensure a quiet day’s work from the home office might just have been to ensure Fortnite was the 'go to' once the home-schooling work was complete, or am I being too optimistic?

More seriously, lockdown has highlighted the value of that which is local to us.

Football in the park was once taken for granted. Now, children and adults alike understand the value of such activity and simple access to space to play.

No one wanted the outdoors to become rationed, but now that it has been, might we find that this generation of children value it more than any of their peers since Super Mario came on the scene?

What if the experience of lockdown encourages more outdoor play, improved fitness, maybe even the odd additional future Olympian?

What if increased remote consulting leads to improved digital infrastructure?

This is perhaps the starkest change in the College’s engagement approach in Wales from pre-lockdown to date.

In our Senedd election policy requests we highlighted the need for GPs to have access to reliable ultrafast broadband.

Yet, we’ve seen that with a push towards online consultation, it is the case that our patients must also have the access and digital literacy to get the most out of their consultation.

At present, Wales has the slowest average broadband speed of the four UK nations. Lockdown must focus the minds of decision-makers to rectify this position.

We will never escape the pain which COVID-19 has wrought upon us, but we can shape the future as we emerge from the virus.

I hope that these three 'what ifs' will spark a broader conversation about how we can harness the best ideas which today are plausible, even if six months ago they appeared distant.

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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