Update on the Health Inequalities Standing Group

31 July 2020

A quick blog this week as I’ve largely been catching up with emails and meetings post-leave.

I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to take a week off, and for once, did not look at my emails at all.

It’s certainly helped me to come back fresher and is a useful reminder to me that we have to allow ourselves genuine down-time when we can get it.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Dr Alasdair Forbes for covering the blog last week.

Doctor wellbeing

One of the meetings I have attended this week was an Expert Advisory Panel workshop as part of a Chief Scientist Office-funded project to address doctor wellbeing during COVID-19 and beyond through identifying priority areas where evidence-based interventions could be offered.

One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been the renewed focus on supporting wellbeing of the workforce, and I am hopeful that this focus will continue well beyond COVID-19.

Wellbeing not only improves patient safety, it also improves patient experience, job satisfaction and the sustainability of our workforce.

RCGP Health Inequalities Standing Group

This week the RCGP Health Inequalities Standing Group met virtually. The group has been hugely active over the last few months and there was a lot to catch up on.

An excellent summary of learning and reflection on the impact of COVID-19 from a general practice perspective (1.01 MB PDF) from the Deep End group in Scotland is available.

One of the three priority areas in the RCGP paper General practice in the Post-COVID World (337 KB PDF) is developing the public/community health function of general practice, which also has a strong health inequality focus, and I am currently in the midst of writing my requested 'thought piece' on Health Inequalities for our upcoming RCGP Council meeting in September.

I am keen to summarise the key learning from COVID-19, how the RCGP has supported its members in this area, and what our internal and external priorities should be moving forward as we consider the crucial role, alongside partner agencies, in addressing health inequalities.

A number of useful resources have been shared to the dedicated health inequalities section of the freely accessible COVID-19 resource hub on the RCGP website, and I would encourage you to take a look if you have the time.

Primary Care Leads

I also had the opportunity to meet with Primary Care Leads this week.

This is always an enjoyable and informative meeting, and it’s always useful for me to hear of the experiences and learning happening across every Healthboard area in Scotland, recognising that whilst many of the challenges are the same, some are also specific to geography and local circumstances. 

Shielding

Shielding for approximately 180,000 people in Scotland comes to an end on 1 August, and hopefully you’ll have received the letters from the Chief Medical Officer in relation to this.

For many, this will be a very welcome announcement. For a significant number, this will be likely to create a lot of anxiety about venturing back out into the world and regaining some sort of normality after being advised to shield for the last five months.

I have been involved in many discussions over the last few months about shielding and the role of general practice.

I anticipate there will be a not-insignificant number of people who will keen to speak with their GP about their ongoing individual risk.

While we will all wish to support our patients and offer person-centred advice as far as possible, as we do with every clinical problem presented, we should not be expected to undertake detailed individualised risk assessments as this is not something that we are trained to do.

This is the work of our specialist colleagues in occupational health and I am due to have discussions with them over the coming weeks to explore what may be useful in terms of support and signposting resources for GPs who may be faced with these scenarios.

Again, I will keep you updated on this, and would be keen to hear of your experiences around this issue over the coming weeks.

Digital working

Finally, an update on digital working.

Due to the seismic shifts towards digital delivery of healthcare in the last few months, there has been a huge amount of evaluation on how well this is working for clinicians and for patients.

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Professor Trisha Greenhalgh a couple of weeks ago as part of her evaluation, and have also been linked in with the NHSNearMe evaluations in Scotland.

I would encourage you all, if you have a spare 10 minutes (and regardless of whether or not you are using video consulting technology) to feed back at the clinician survey.

This survey is open until 9 August.


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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