What is the RCGP doing to support members?

20 March 2020

From influencing government to clarifying guidance on COVID-19, our work provides the latest information and channels for feedback from members, explain Professor Martin Marshall and Dr Steve Mowle.

Vlog transcript

Dr Steve Mowle: My name is Steve Mowle. I'm the Treasurer here at the Royal College of GPs and today I'm here as the Deputy Lead for COVID-19 in the College. 

Professor Martin Marshall: Hi, my name is Martin Marshall. I'm Chair of the Royal College and a GP in east London. 

Dr Steve Mowle: So, Martin the first question I would like to ask you: lots of members are writing in and are asking this simple question, ‘What is the College doing to support members during this COVID-19 challenge?’

Professor Martin Marshall: This is a massive challenge for the College and one that we’re rising to. It’s so important that we prove ourselves to be useful for our members. We recognise, probably the most important thing at this stage, is information. There's nothing worse than an information vacuum and I know a lot of clinicians out there feel like they just don't know what's going on, and the main way that we respond to that at the moment is through the development of the website. So, we’ve got a COVID-19 specific part of our website. We've got a number of resources that we're developing on that website. It's available right now for people to look at. 

Some of those resources relate to frequently asked questions. We've gone out to our members and said: ‘What are the key issues for you? We've taken them back to the clinical advisory group that we've established, and the answers are there. 

We've also put national guidance on the website as well so that it's available there in a simple, accessible form, and in parts we've had to adapt that national guidance as well.

So, that's one part of the website. The second part of our website is a CPD resource. Our RCGP learning team, which is a phenomenal team, has developed some really good, useful and practical resources, related to clinical and practice management issues. 

The third part of our website is going to be discussion forum, which we are establishing very soon, which will be chaired by our President Amanda Howe, and that's going to give members an opportunity to exchange ideas and to have questions and answers as well. 

Dr Steve Mowle:
 Martin, so what sort of conversations have you been having with government ministers and senior leaders within the NHS recently? 

Professor Martin Marshall: One of the most important roles of the College is our ability to use our links, our networks and influencing opportunities with government, particularly at a time like this. So, we're working closely with government. We have an effective working relationship with them. We're supporting them at a time of great need. We need to work together as a team. Often, we're providing some very practical advice for them, helping them to write guidance, for example. But at the same time as being supportive, we're also in a position, because we have effective relationship, to challenge, and there are a number of really important issues on which we are challenging them. 

For example, current guidance about the isolation of people who possibly have been exposed to coronavirus but they're not sure. They're detached from the workforce. They really want to be in there supporting their colleagues. So, we're challenging them about that. We challenge them about self-testing so that people can be tested and get back into the workforce as quickly as possible as well.

Dr Steve Mowle: Are their things that you think the College has actually achieved through these negotiations? 

Professor Martin Marshall: Yes, very much so, and I think that's a consequence of the good relationship that we have and the respect with which the College is held. So, for example, we pushed very hard for the Care Quality Commission inspection regime to be stepped back, and that's happened which is great. We've pushed very hard along with GPC colleagues in the BMA to reduce some of the contractual requirements. That's happened as well. 

We've also encouraged educational colleagues to step back on annual appraisal and that's happened as well. So, I think in a range of different ways, because we're respected, and we're making reasonable offers, those are being listened to and they're being acted upon. 

Dr Steve Mowle: So, is the College doing enough then? 

Professor Martin Marshall: Not yet. We understand the enormous pressure that general practice is facing, the stress that people are feeling. This is a massive crisis for all of us when you can see your colleagues going off unwell and when you know it's going to get worse before it gets better. It's a massive challenge for us. We're doing our absolute utmost to respond to that challenge. We are producing more and more information, which we are putting on our website. 

We've got a whole range of ideas about how we can engage with our members and support our members, both emotionally as well as in terms of information. We want to improve the quality of information; we want to improve its presentation. We've got a lot that we need to do and we're working on it really hard. We're going to get there. 

Dr Steve Mowle: Thanks Martin. Do you think general practice is ready for the next few weeks? 

Professor Martin Marshall: Well, that's a really big question isn't it? Because this is a massive challenge. This is the biggest challenge that general practice has probably faced for generations. It's the biggest challenge the NHS has probably ever faced. We know that general practices are gearing up. They're getting into the right place to be able to deal with this. We also know that it's a massive challenge and there are lots of things that are required, some of which are within and some of which are outside general practices control. 

We need more guidance. We need better equipment, better technology. In particular, personal protective equipment. We need to make sure that we've got enough to deal with what is going to be a crisis, which is getting worse. We're going to need to use PPE more. 

We need better technology, particularly to help us to do online consultations, as well. There's a range of ways in which we need more resource to allow us to get into an appropriate state of preparedness. My feeling is that we're going to get there. What we do have to remember though, is this is the biggest crisis that we have probably ever had to face, and we have to remember that it's going to get worse than it is now. 

The peak of the crisis is probably going to be a few weeks, maybe a month or so away. By that time, we need to be really prepared, as prepared as we possibly can be to deal with it.


Vlog discussion with

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the RCGP

Professor Martin Marshall is a GP in Newham in east London and Professor of Healthcare Improvement at UCL, Programme Director for Primary Care at UCLP Partners. He leads Improvement Science London, an initiative to promote and embed the science of improvement across the health service and academic sectors. 

Previously, he was director of research and development at the Health Foundation, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, and Director General in the Department of Health, a clinical academic at the University of Manchester and a Harkness Fellow in Healthcare Policy.

He has been a GP for 28 years. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London and of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine and was a non-executive director of the Care Quality Commission until 2012.

He has over 200 publications in the field of quality of care and in 2005 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for Services to Health Care.

Dr Steve Mowle, Honorary Treasurer of the RCGP

As Honorary Treasurer, Dr Mowle has responsibility for all matters relating to the College finances. He was Vice Chair of the RCGP from 2011-13 and was the lead officer for Commissioning, GP Nursing, the RCGP Annual National Conference, Patient and Carer Partnership Group and GPC liaison. He has also previously chaired South London Faculty Board and RCGP London.

He trained in Wales and has been a GP Partner at the Hetherington Group Practice in South London since 2000. Dr Mowle has held a number of different educational roles including GP Trainer, Programme Director and most recently Associate Dean for HEE, with lead roles around recruitment and supporting trainees in need of support. He currently works as an RCGP International Tutor in South Africa.

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