GPs urged to use their voices to improve the lives of patients in deprived areas

The can-do attitude and independence of GPs offers a unique opportunity to help reverse the ‘horrific statistics’ of deprivation, the RCGP Annual Conference heard.

Image of Dr Farzana Hussain
Dr Farzana Hussain: 'GPs can make a difference'

East London GP Dr Farzana Hussain has practised for 20 years in Newham, the 23rd most deprived borough in London with the second worst crime rate, where 73% of her practice's 5,000 patients are BAME and half of the children live in poverty.

She told the conference, taking place at the nearby ExCel centre: ‘We are one of the most iconic cities in the world and yet someone like me, a BAME woman, would be dying ten years earlier than a decade ago.

‘I am hearing a lot of talk from the government about levelling up and there are a lot of meetings, but not much seems to be happening. We are GPs and we are really can-do people and I think we can do our little bit to reverse some of these horrific statistics on life expectancy for women and on knife crime.

The independent voice of GPs

‘One of the great things about GPs is that we are independent contractors. We can use our voice. We can make a difference. It’s important to say what’s important - not just what the policymakers think is important - because we know our communities and we do know what they need.’

Dr Hussain described how in 2019 a 15-year-old patient was stabbed to death by another teenager on a bus coming home from school. ‘News of his death swept through Snapchat. But the young people I spoke to said they didn’t know what to do or who to tell and I thought I needed to do something about this. And as a GP was able to do something.’

Working with schools, public health and a local football club charity, a simple tool was developed to encourage engagement with young people by asking them three simple questions: What makes you smile in your day? What do you like about school? Is there anything troubling you?

Dr Hussain said: ‘We know our patients. And no matter what the political rhetoric of the day is, I do not think there is anything more powerful than the continuity of the doctor-patient or team-patient relationship. We cannot change the world but, as Mother Theresa says, if you cannot feed a hundred people then just feed one.’

Read more from the RCGP annual conference

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