In a question and answer session with GP delegates at the RCGP annual conference, the RCGP’s six clinical champions said that even small changes from GPs could make a big difference to patients’ lives.
Challenged by a GP in the audience to list their number one ‘small change’ they would recommend to improve patient care, the RCGP experts gave the following five tips.
1 Dr Liz England, clinical lead for mental health and whole-person care
‘Make sure you think about physical healthcare for people with serious mental health problems.
‘Rather than thinking purely about mental health, we've got to think about how people exist as a whole. People with serious mental health problems like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder tend to live 15-20 years less than people who don’t have those conditions.’
2 Dr Richard Roope, clinical lead for cancer care
‘Get them exercising. Activity and exercise has been shown to be effective for the mind and body, whatever condition you’ve got. It’s preventative and it’s treating.
‘An inspirational GP in my patch now takes patients for a 15-minute walk as part of their mental health review. She writes up the review when she gets back, so the review is actually done going around the recreation ground.’
Dr Kathryn Griffith, clinical lead for chronic kidney disease
‘I would like to reinforce what Richard said. Diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease (CKD), heart disease, it all comes down to blood vessels. Anything to do with blood vessels, focus on [encouraging exercise].’
3 Dr Waqaar Shah, clinical lead for eye health
‘The front-of-house experience is really vital. I had a patient who was significantly partially sighted. She came to see a doctor at 10am, she waited until 12 noon and then went to the receptionist. She was told: 'Oh, you missed your appointment. Your name came up on the monitor, you didn’t respond. You’ll have to re-book.
‘She didn’t re-book and we only saw her two and a half years later with a significant other problem. She didn’t want to come back because she was petrified, humiliated and disgusted with the whole experience. So if you can make the front-of-house experience meaningful and pleasant, patients will be more encouraged to come back for serious appointments.’
4 Dr Judy Shakespeare, clinical champion for perinatal mental health
‘If a woman comes in to talk to you about how she’s feeling after having a baby, take her seriously and normalise it and reassure her.
‘It’s a really, really big deal for a woman to go and tell their GP that she’s got a problem, and basically we only have one chance to get it right. If we don’t get it right that time, she’ll never come back.’
5 Dr Michael Brooks, clinical champion for end-of-life care
‘I would say raise the question early on – at diagnosis – about the issue of dying and where people would prefer to die.’