GP recruitment and great PR won’t work while the pressures of the job make it unachievable, while bureaucracy and regulation make it unmanageable and while a lack of people and resources leave it unsupported.
Empty political promises of extra GPs are meaningless when training places remain unfilled. So too are promises of access all hours when general practice has been undervalued, under resourced and systematically run down for decades.
National commission on the future of general practice
Tinkering with QOF and introducing DESs requiring increased but unfunded workloads are not going to achieve anything. Nor will offers of non-recurrent funds while practices wait for the axe of PMS and MPIG reviews.
It’s time for a complete re-think: a national commission on the future of general practice with the RCGP firmly positioned as the lead player. This will enable us to achieve five objectives:
1. Enable family doctors to provide personal care and continuity which is threatened by a misguided emphasis on quick access.
2. Improve appropriate access with more hands on deck.
3. Extend services but only with the right support and funding streams.
4. Achieve our potential to improve local health by transferring health money from local authorities to general practice.
5. Transform general practice and restore its status and attractiveness as a profession.
The RCGP also needs to change. In the past, it has too often been the voice of protest and leaving it infrequently consulted when it should have been driving NHS policy from the inside.
As president, I won’t play second fiddle to the other royal colleges. We need to be outwardly strong but also fair and sensitive to our members. Too many of our newer members, having worked hard for their MRCGP accreditation, ask me what the RCGP does to justify their hefty subscription. So do older GPs like me, too many of whom are not members at all. We need to become a college that listens, cares, acts and delivers.
As for my qualifications. I have led and co-created four organisations: NHS Alliance; NHS Clinical Commissioners; College of Medicine; and my own surgery, the Culm Valley Centre for Integrated Health. Each one has delivered.
I have the relationships with politicians that we need to influence the NHS and, as a writer and broadcaster, I have the credibility with the press we need to re-establish our status.
It is time for the NHS to recognise and act on the hard evidence from WHO, Professor Barbara Starfield, and Professor Sir Brian Jarman, which clearly show investment in general practice leads to fewer deaths, better health and a more affordable health system, while extra investment in specialist care does the opposite.
We must challenge the bent rules and a complacent status quo that has allowed our status to be undermined over the past 10 years. To do so, the RCGP needs a strong, credible and resolute president that can restore British general practice. He or she will require the right mix of diplomacy and bloody mindedness.
As a practising GP with two GP children and a GP daughter in law, I live and breathe general practice and will expend every ounce of energy to make it better for us all.
* What do the other RCGP presidential candidates say?