Volunteering testimonials

Jill Edwards, GP Trainer, South Africa

Dr Jill Edwards worked for over 30 years as a GP in Chipping Norton and GP Dean in Oxford for Health Education England. She is now an RCGP supporter as part of a teaching scheme for Family Physician trainers in South Africa.

I am 'last 5' and I have retired from a very fulfilling career spanning over 30 years as a GP in Chipping Norton and as the GP Dean in Oxford for Health Education England.

"I think it is a 'win-win' combination. The training scheme get to benefit from my extensive GP / medical education expertise, by working there for four years to meet the needs of trainers in South Africa. I learn from the ingenious solutions that they have found to do a lot with very little resources and to seed those ideas back in the UK with the other organisations that I work for."
Jill Edwards

I see this time of my life as one of 'reinvention'. After such a privileged career I feel a responsibility to give something back to society and I now have more time to volunteer.

South Africa is on a journey to enable universal health coverage to all of its population, including those dependant on the public sector in rural areas. Family Physicians are seen as one of the ways to enable this to happen. There has been a Masters level Family Physician training programme in each of the nine universities for the past 10 years, but the number of graduates produced has been disappointingly low. One of the reasons for this could be that there was no programme to educate their trainers in effective ways to teach their registrars.

Supported by various grants Stellenbosch University and the RCGP have formed a partnership to develop training resources and to run a 'Train the Clinical Trainers' course. I am one of the facilitators on the course and have also visited a large proportion of the alumni to celebrate what changes they have managed to achieve and advise on further developments. The scheme is now spreading into other countries in Sub Saharan Africa and is called by the acronym FAMLEaP. 

Sam Merriel, GP Careers Champion

Sam Merriel is a NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in General Practice at ST4 level. He is currently working at Courtside Surgery in Yate, South Gloucestershire and at the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol, as well as supporting for the GP Career Champions with RCGP Severn Faculty.

"I chose to volunteer... to share my passion for general practice. It is a wonderful specialty to choose as a career, and I believe we need to continue efforts such as the GP Career Champions programme to spread this message to medical students and junior doctors".
Sam Merriel

Working as a GP is a privilege. Working as a GP is immensely rewarding. Working as a GP is challenging. The medicine is diverse and can be complex. GPs build relationships with patients and their families that can last our whole career. GPs can pursue a diverse range of interests alongside their core clinical work, from research to politics to emergency medicine.

These are some of the messages I have tried to get across to medical students and junior doctors considering a career in general practice through the RCGP Severn Faculty's GP Career Champions programme. As part of this initiative, I have put myself forward as a GP who is happy to be matched with medical students or junior doctors who want to know more about what life is really like as an expert generalist. The programme is designed to meet the needs of mentees by being very flexible; participants can just meet once for a chat or establish a more on-going arrangement.

I have met with three potential future colleagues to date as part of the GP Career Champions programme. It has been insightful for me to understand the views the next generation of medics have of general practice, and some of the myths that still exist. I have been encouraged by the enthusiasm that clearly still exists amongst this group despite the current challenges our profession faces. Requests for mentors are still coming, so clearly there is still an interest that we can harness to help address the GP workforce shortages we face.

I chose to volunteer for this initiative to share my passion for general practice. It is a wonderful specialty to choose as a career, and I believe we need to continue efforts such as the GP Career Champions programme to spread this message to medical students and junior doctors.

Janice Allister, Clinical Advisor

Janice works as a sessional GP for Park Medical Centre in Peterborough and is also Clinical Adviser for CIRC at RCGP. She started as an RCGP supporter when she was a full-time GP partner in Brinnington Stockport before moving to Peterborough with her husband.

"Volunteering as a Clinical Advisor is an opportunity to listen to the combined voices of experts, researchers, patients, carers and survivors and be part of change. It's humbling. They [RCGP] open my mind to new possibilities."
Janice Allister

One of the challenges of working as a GP in areas with deprivation is that many problems seem intractable. Writing case reviews has helped me appreciate approaches involving others in the team and beyond.

I came into volunteering when struggling with "difficult" families who were "hard to engage".  I was so moved by a sympathetic BJGP article that I emailed the author who to my surprise replied and recommended we meet at a conference they were organising.

Through attending this RCGP conference I met and kept in touch with other GPs who were enthusiastic about finding solutions. It wasn't only their personal charm but also the ways in which they worked with voluntary organisations and other health and social care professionals that gave new insights and support. CIRC sponsored a 'toolkit' and I brought my examples of cases to help 'earth' it.

I applied to be a clinical adviser at the RCGP through CIRC because it seemed a way of saying thank you for the encouragement and vision. As a clinical adviser I am sent choices of guidelines on which to comment and opportunities to represent the RCGP (often as the sole representative).  I was amazed that so many organisations seek to involve GPs. It is a responsibility and privilege. 

I do some feedback for NICE and other consultations through the RCGP. Recent examples have been the interdisciplinary group producing the Personality Disorder consensus statement and the SANDs initiative with the National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP). These are just some of the variety of volunteering. It can be in person, by telephone or email.  As a volunteer I'm clear about what I can and can't do, falling back on the RCGP where needed. It's an opportunity to listen to the combined voices of experts, researchers, patients, carers and survivors and be part of change. It's humbling. They open my mind to new possibilities.

Colin Angus, Patient Chair of P3, a sub group of RCGP Scotland

Colin Angus qualified as a Chartered Surveyor and spent his career working in various positions in Local Government. After retiring at the age of 50, he has volunteered extensively including, among others, posts as a lay member of a complaints panel in a high security psychiatric hospital and a public partner in a Health Board and a Health and Social Care partnership. 

"My volunteering with the RCGP has broadened my knowledge and allowed me to have a voice. Whether it is speaking at the national conference or speaking in front of politicians, the media, students etc, I have grown so much by being involved as a volunteer. I feel that I am now given a platform upon which I can share my views to an audience that listens".
Colin Angus

As a non-clinician I have always been passionate about ensuring that all patients have a voice, a voice that is listened to. This passion has led me into many volunteering roles where I have felt I can influence change to improve outcomes for patients.

As Patient Chair of P3, a sub group of RCGP (Scotland) I help to ensure that the patient perspective is part of the work plan of the College. I also have regular contact with the other devolved nations' patient chairs and I participate in the Professional Development and Quality Programme Board. I also presented at the RCGP Annual Conference in Liverpool last year and have been successful in securing a session at this year's conference in Glasgow. The session, entitled "Never mind the quality what about the outcome", will explore positive benefits patients have experienced with small changes made under the quality improvement agenda.

I am indebted to the various agencies that support me in my efforts to articulate the patient voice. Support is essential and in all my roles the support has been excellent."

Sandip Pramanik, Discover GP Advisory Group Member

Sandip is currently a GP partner and trainer at the Attenborough Surgery in Bushey Hertfordshire and he has been a GP partner for the last 5 years. He works as a GP educator for both UCL and Cambridge medical schools. His specialist interests include paediatrics and mental health as well as medical education.

"To this day I still remember my first GP attachment as a medical student in the Staffordshire moorlands… Now as a GP trainer and educator my actions may make the same impression. Volunteering for the RCGP is a great place to start as the future depends on what we do in the present."
Sandip Pramanik

I have been a GP trainer and partner in Hertfordshire for the last five years. In that time I have noticed a shift in the perceptions of general practice particularly from students and junior doctors. A lot of this has been based on a slight negative media spin on GP workload and job satisfaction. It was time to do something about it. Two years ago I approached the college stand at a BMJ careers event to tell the very enthusiastic membership team how I felt. The response was 'why don't you come work with us'.

Working with the RCGP student engagement team, we showcase general practice for the exciting and rewarding career it truly is, by reaching out to students and foundation doctors at careers events and speed mentoring sessions. I was also introduced to the GP recruitment division of NHS England to film a promotional video at my practice. This was showcased at the RCGP Annual Conference, it had some great feedback from fellow GP colleagues, before hitting social media.

I am looking forward to a new role as part of the Discover GP advisory group. This group hopes to support, encourage and empower pupils, students and foundation doctors to discover, explore and experience the endless opportunities a career in general practice offers. This comes off some of the excellent work behind the scenes on the recent Destination GP report on student perceptions on general practice.

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