Rural Forum

We represent rural and remote GPs and promote rural issues inside and outside the College Faculties. There are around 800 RCGP members currently signed up to the rural forum, who are invited to participate in discussions pertinent to this group of members. We aim to advance the College's objectives in rural practice; facilitate communication and networking of rural doctors in the UK and support the professional development of rural GPs. By working with the College, we raise issues concerning remote and rural GPs to help inform political debate.

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March 2024

We are delighted to announce that two members of the Rural Forum have been awarded Fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh’s Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare. Tim Sanders is a rural GP, team doctor for Penrith Mountain Rescue, and Senior Clinical Lecturer in Rural Medicine at UCLan. Emma Watts is also a rural GP, Chair of the RCGP Rural Forum, and works with the media and politicians to address the lack of rural proofing in national policy. We hope that the FRRHH and the Rural Forum can work together going forward to enhance the healthcare provided to rural communities.

We were pleased that the Rural Forum took a spot in the opening plenary session at the recent RCGP Member Summit on Thursday 7 March 2024. Dr Emma Watts explained what the Rural Forum aims to achieve and discussed the priorities of the forum for the year ahead. We hope that this has inspired more rural GPs to join us.

Introducing the new Chair of the RCGP Rural Forum

We are pleased to announce that Dr Emma Watts has recently been appointed as the new Chair of the RCGP Rural Forum. Emma is a dispensing doctor based in Shere, in the Surrey Hills. The practice covers an area of 50 square miles, with multiple villages, and a population of nearly 10,000 patients. Although geographically not far from London, the practice struggles with similar rural access problems to rural practices elsewhere in the UK.

Emma is also an LMC Rep, sitting on the Surrey LMC.

Emma has been working as a rural GP for the past 18 years and is passionate about providing continuity of care and addressing rural inequity. She contributed to the Inquiry into the future of General Practice, which was led by Jeremy Hunt and published last year. The community gynaecology service run by the surgery was featured in the Rural proofing for Health Toolkit (Rural England) as an example of excellence.

Emma is hoping to stimulate more involvement in the Rural Forum for rural GPs. Given that rural patients make up 18% of the UK population, Emma would like to see the College rural proofing all of its policies and will work to increase the profile of rural GPs within the College.

Rural Forum Chair meets the UK Chancellor

This December, the new Chair of the Rural Forum, Dr Emma Watts, met with Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt to discuss the funding of the NHS Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care. £645 million has been invested into community pharmacy services to provide consultations for minor illness, to try to reduce the demand on General Practice. This creates significant rural inequity as the 18% of the population registered with a Dispensing Doctor are excluded from this service as an unintentional consequence of an inadequately considered contract.

Emma was accompanied by Dr Matthew Isom (CEO of the Dispensing Doctors Association) to discuss that the problem had arisen due to lack of rural proofing. We are hoping that Mr Hunt’s visit will lead to increased engagement with NHS England and others to discuss contract amendments and we will continue to update you on this.

We actively encourage members to step forward to join the Rural Forum Steering Group. This requires minimal time commitment but would help us to ensure that the direction we take is driven directly by our rural membership.

Get involved

Rural Forum Discussion Google Group

This is the means by which members can follow and inform topical debate and can contribute to Rural Forum activity. An operational guide will be sent electronically on joining the Forum. The Forum is open to any College member and is completely free. Join by emailing your details to us. Please include:

  • First name and surname
  • GMC number
  • The email address which you registered with the College's membership database

Benefits of joining:

  • Representation of rural practitioners' interests in the care of their patients at all levels
  • Established democratic representative structure
  • Opportunity for you to inform and influence College policy
  • A virtual system of communication via e-communication and web based facilities
  • Fee reduction for attendance at educational meetings and courses run by the Forum
  • Opportunity to comment on and influence College policy
  • Opportunity to influence College interaction with other agencies where their policies and initiatives may impact on rural healthcare.

Meet your faculty

Rural Forum Officers

  • Dr Emma Watts - Chair
  • Dr Christopher Clark - England Representative 
  • Dr Robert Lambourn - England Representative
  • Dr Melanie Plant - Welsh Representative
  • Dr Miriam Dolan - Northern Ireland Representative
  • Dr Rebecca Orr - Northern Ireland and AiT Representative
  • Dr Christopher Williams - Scottish Representative
  • Dr Sanjeev Maskara - England Representative
  • Mrs Jane Randall-Smith - EURIPA Representative
  • Dr John Wynn-Jones - WONCA Working Party Rural Practice (WWPRP) Chair, European Rural and Isolated Practitioners Association (EURIPA) Past President. RCGP representative and contact with Rural International Organisations
  • Dr Shen Gills - Scottish Representative

The RCGP Rural Forum group aims to improve representation of rural GPs within the College.

The forum supports GP revalidation and investigates education that seeks to ensure recruitment and retention in rural practices. We aim to improve communication with rural members, offer input for CPD programmes and research and provide the rural perspective in shaping College policy.

Our aims are to:

  • Represent rural and remote GPs, and promote rural issues inside and outside the College faculties
  • Encourage rural GPs to engage with the College
  • Advance the College's objectives in rural practice
  • Facilitate communication and networking of rural doctors in the UK
  • Support the professional development of rural GPs
  • Promote remote and rural issues at appropriate levels, engaging with the profession and managers and informing political debate.

Contact us

Ruth Bishop | Regional Engagement Manager | South West England | Faculties
Phone: 0203 188 7685 | 07585 978432

Rural Member Forum

Useful links 

WHO Reference Documents on Remote and Rural Retention Policy for Health Workers