RCGP news

This page shows a summary of the latest news from the Royal College of General Practitioners RSS News Feed.

Charging patients for appointments 'against founding principle of NHS', says RCGP

“Charging patients for GP appointments would go against one of the founding principles of the NHS, that care is free at the point of need. It risks deterring patients from seeking medical help in the early stages of illness, when they can be dealt with cost-effectively and efficiently in primary care, rather than requiring expensive specialist care in hospitals, and it is bound to negatively affect our vulnerable patients, who are less able to pay for healthcare, most.

“Charging for appointments would also be considerably more complicated than it sounds – and GP surgeries are simply not equipped to do it. It would heap yet another administrative burden on practices, that we simply don’t need with the workload pressures facing our profession.

“General practice is facing intense resource and workforce pressures at the moment, but charging patients for appointments is not the answer. The Prime Minister, earlier this week, announced an extra £394m a week for the NHS by 2023 – what is important is that additional investment is used to ensure a robust general practice service, so that we don’t even need to consider charging patients for their care, and our service can continue to be the sustainable foundation on which the NHS is built.”

parkrun UK teams up with RCGP to 'prescribe' active lifestyles to patients and practice staff

The initiative aims to improve the health and wellbeing of health care staff, patients and carers, reducing the need for lifelong medication.

GP practices will be encouraged to develop closer links with their local parkrun to become certified 'parkrun practices', with health care practitioners signposting patients and carers to parkrun, particularly those who are the least active and have long-term health conditions.

There are currently 535 parkruns across the UK with more events starting every week, many situated close to GP practices. They are free, 5k events that take place every Saturday morning year-round in public areas of open space. Each event is coordinated entirely by local volunteers and they are accessible for people of all ages and abilities. There are also 220 2k junior parkruns for 4-14-year-olds and their families on Sunday mornings.

There is no need to run at parkrun and junior parkrun - thousands of people walk the events or join in as volunteers or spectators. Whether it is to be part of a supportive, welcoming community, gain fitness, make friends, learn new skills, try something new or simply be active in the fresh air, everyone has their own reason to attend a parkrun.

The initiative builds on research conducted by parkrun UK in 2017 that revealed hundreds of healthcare practitioners who are aware of the wide-ranging benefits of active lifestyles to health and wellbeing are already signposting patients to parkrun. It aims to further increase awareness amongst GPs, and all practice staff, of parkrun and the positive impact physical activity and volunteering can have on health and wellbeing.

Becoming a parkrun practice will be straightforward and parkrun UK and RCGP will offer guidance and ideas as part of its Physical Activity and Lifestyle clinical programme.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Small, often simple, lifestyle changes can have a really positive impact on our health and wellbeing, so anything that encourages patients to live better, and move more is a good thing. parkrun is a diverse, fun and free way of getting our patients up and moving about, and empowering them to make basic lifestyle changes in the best interests of their long-term health and wellbeing."

Head of Health and Wellbeing at parkrun Chrissie Wellington said: "Our research tells us that GPs and other practice staff are already signposting people to parkrun to great effect and we want to scale this up. This exciting and game-changing initiative with RCGP is a huge step forward in helping us to encourage GP practices across the country to forge really beneficial partnerships with their local parkruns, and for all staff and patients to realise the wide-ranging health benefits that parkrun participation can bring."

RCGP Clinical Champion for Physical Activity & Lifestyle, Dr Andrew Boyd said: "Inactivity is a leading cause of premature illness and death in the UK. GPs and their teams play a key role in encouraging and empowering their patients to get more active in the best interests of their health. parkrun provides an accessible, non-intimidating local opportunity for patients and staff to increase their activity levels, and have fun doing it, all in the great outdoors - and for free!"

Dr Simon Tobin, a GP from Southport said: "It's a win-win situation for my patients and the NHS. Almost every day I invite my patients to come to parkrun and I've had successes with people with anxiety, depression, diabetes and heart disease as well as those who want to improve their blood pressure or get fitter. My patients are healthier, happier and on fewer medications, and the NHS saves a fortune on unnecessary drugs and dealing with their side effects."

Dr Ollie Hart, whose medical centre helped set up Graves parkrun in Sheffield in 2012, said: "The close connection between our practice and our local parkrun has had the biggest health impact of anything I have done in my career. Many of the Centre's staff and patients are regular walkers, runners or volunteers, and I know people with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, airway disease, mental health issues and many other health conditions who have all benefited hugely from a life changing association with parkrun."

Banning phones in schools could give children 'space to focus', says RCGP

"Children are under so much pressure to conform to social norms around how to look and what to do in order to be popular, and this can certainly impact on their mental, and physical, health and wellbeing. Whilst pressure to conform might always have existed, these days it is relentless through social media and other such channels and smartphones are often the gateway to this. Considering taking measures to ban the use of mobile phones in schools during lessons – either physically or by blocking 4G signals – would be a welcome move, and one that we hope will give children more space to focus on their studies, and have some respite from the pressures they face online."


New information on patient satisfaction shows pressing need for more support for general practice, says RCGP Wales

86% of respondents said they were satisfied with the care they received from their GP, down from 90% in 2016/17. 42% said they found it difficult to make a convenient appointment, rising from 38% in 2016/17.

Dr Rebecca Payne, RCGP Wales Chair, said:

"These figures are obviously concerning. They will be disappointing for GPs who are working extraordinarily hard in extremely difficult circumstances.

"We need to be clear that this a result of workforce shortages and underinvestment in general practice. They provide further evidence that the Welsh Government need to take action.

"We need to see specific measures to boost the workforce, including alleviating workload pressures to help keep GPs in the profession, increasing GP training places, and developing a wider general practice team with other healthcare professionals.

"We also need to see a significant shift in resource. Welsh general practice receives a lower share of NHS spend than anywhere else in the UK and this needs to be urgently addressed. Only last week we had the latest plan committing to allowing patients to access more care in their community, it will only be achieved with more support for general practice.

"This is having a direct and negative impact on patient care and action needs to be taken."

RCGP Wales stress importance of its action plan to tackle loneliness, as new data shows 16% of people in Wales are lonely

Dr Rebecca Payne, RCGP Wales Chair, said:

"We recently published a community action plan to tackle loneliness, looking at how GPs can be supported to do more to tackle loneliness. It included making better use of social prescribing, developing community resources and making them more accessible, and addressing GP workload pressures to make longer appointments an option.

"The figures released today show just how important that is. 16% of people in Wales being lonely is very significant, and the dramatic rise for those in material deprivation is extremely concerning. Loneliness is a public health epidemic.

"This week is loneliness awareness week and we need a society-wide approach to tackling loneliness; we hope our action plan will be an important part of the conversation."

PM announcement 'welcome and encouraging' but general practice must receive a substantial share, says RCGP

"The Prime Minister's announcement recognises the exceptional work that our national health service has done over the last 70 years, in the best interests of our patients, and is welcome confirmation that the Government is committed to continuing this.

"Her pledge represents a significant amount of money and this is certainly encouraging. It is essential that as more details of her long term plan are announced, general practice is recognised for the vital role it plays in delivering safe, effective patient care in the community, and keeping the entire NHS sustainable.

"The 3.4% real terms increase in investment is to be welcomed. However, it still falls short of the 4% that the Institute of Fiscal Studies recently claimed is necessary for a health service fit for the future, and which the RCGP, and other members of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, representing doctors right across medicine, has supported - so it is vital that any new investment is used wisely, and in the long-term benefits of patients and the entire NHS.

"General practice provides the sustainable pillars for the NHS - but whilst our workload is escalating in both volume and complexity, the share of the budget we receive is less than it was a decade ago, and our workforce is actually declining.

"As a result, GPs and our teams are working under conditions that are simply not safe for ourselves, our teams, or our patients. This is unsustainable and we call on the Prime Minister to specifically address this in the detail of her plans.

"The NHS is a source of national pride, and the envy of the world. It turns 70 this year and its achievements in delivering patient care to anyone who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay, have been astounding. The RCGP believes that the NHS can survive another 70 years, and beyond, but that will depend on a robust general practice service - the Prime Minister has the power to ensure this, and we urge her, in the strongest possible terms, to use it."

Hay fever rates smash five-year average across England, latest RGCP data shows

The RSC revealed there were 45,355 cases of hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, presented to GP practices between 4 June-10 June 2018 (76.7 presentations per 100,000 population); up from 19.8/100,000 the previous week (11,708 cases).

This is significantly above the five-year average for cases in general practice.

Responding to the figures, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Hay fever rates are exceptionally high right now – certainly the worst we’ve seen in recent years with the latest data from our Research and Surveillance Centre showing that it is significantly above the five-year average for cases in general practice.

"In fact, more than 45,000 people visited their GP with hay fever symptoms last week in England.

"For the estimated one in five people who suffer from hay fever, the symptoms, which include sneezing, coughing, and streaming eyes and nose, can be really distressing but the discomfort of symptoms should only be temporary and cause no long-term ill effects.

"Patients suffering from hay fever can take some simple practical steps to reduce their exposure to pollen, for example by wearing a hat with a wide brim, putting a small amount of Vaseline on their nostrils to trap pollen particles, and keeping windows and doors shut as much as possible.

"Most cases of hay fever can be treated with over-the-counter medicine, such as antihistamines or nasal sprays."

New GPs entering 'incredibly pressurised' profession, says RCGP

"We have more GPs in training than ever before, but it takes a long time to train a GP – at least ten years – and in the meantime, more GPs are leaving the profession than joining it. The situation is unsustainable and must be addressed, and we need to start with tackling GP workload, that has risen dramatically in recent years in both volume and complexity.

"GPs report routinely making over 60  patient contacts a day – that isn't safe for patients, and it isn't safe for GPs and our teams.

"Ultimately, we need NHS England's GP Forward View, including pledges for £2.4bn extra a year, 5,000 more GPs and 5,000 more practice team members by 2020 to be delivered urgently and in full."


RCGP Wales announce new Joint Chairs-elect
Dr Hopkin has been a GP at Old School Surgery Pontyclun for the past 32 years. She has held the role of Chair and Provost of the RCGP South-East Wales Faculty and has also been Associate Dean for GP Postgraduate Training for 12 years.

Dr Saul is a GP at a four-partner practice in Rhosllanerchrugog, near Wrexham. He qualified in 1984. He has been Chair and is currently Treasurer of the RCGP North Wales Faculty. He is also an Associate Dean and GP Trainer.

Their election was ratified at the RCGP Welsh Council meeting on 14 June 2018. They will take up their joint post at the Welsh Council AGM on 15 November 2018, taking over from Dr Rebecca Payne.

Dr Rob Morgan, a Bridgend GP, was also ratified as Vice Chair-elect (Policy and Public Affairs).

Dr Mair Hopkin said:

"I'm really looking forward to taking up this role and contributing to the future development of general practice in Wales. I'm determined to promote general practice as a positive career choice for medical students as part of wider efforts to develop the workforce.

"I have no doubt the next three years will bring a lot of challenges and opportunities and I am looking forward to meeting them, alongside Peter. Rebecca leaves big shoes to fill and she deserves a huge thank you for the work she has done over the last three years."

Dr Peter Saul said:

"It is an honour to be elected as Joint Chair-elect. The responsibility it will bring is clear. The challenges facing general practice are widely recognised and I want to ensure there is action to address them.

"When Rebecca's term ends she will be leaving many achievements to build on so I am grateful for her work. I am pleased to be elected alongside Mair, who I have known for many years, and relish the opportunity to support GPs and promote patient care."

Dr Rebecca Payne, the current RCGP Wales Chair, said:

"I'm absolutely delighted to see Mair and Peter elected as Joint Chairs-elect. As GPs from South and North Wales they will bring considerable local knowledge, and I have no doubt that they will make a formidable team to take forward the interests of general practice on my departure in November."
Relaxing of visa rules would be 'fantastic and much-needed' victory, says RCGP

"While we await the details of the Home Secretary's expected announcement, lifting the cap of Tier 2 visas for doctors and nurses wanting to work in the NHS would be a fantastic and much-needed victory for common sense and patient care, and something that the College, along with organisations across medicine, has been pushing hard for.

"We are currently desperately short of GPs in the UK. Our workload is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity, yet despite the Government's pledge for 5,000 more family doctors by 2020, the number of GPs working in the NHS in England is actually falling.

"The NHS, general practice included, has long been supported by the skills and hard work of doctors and other healthcare professionals from overseas. Mindful of similar pressures in other countries, we would welcome any appropriately-trained doctor who wants to work in UK general practice to help us deliver care to over 1m patients a day.

"Regardless of the cap on Tier 2 visas, there remain significant barriers for GPs to employ doctors from overseas. We urge the Home Secretary to address these in his announcement tomorrow: to cut the arduous red tape and significant costs standing in the way of GP practices obtaining the necessary licence to do this; and to use his powers to add GPs to the Migration Advisory Committee's shortage occupation list.

"Recruiting GPs from overseas will not solve the workforce crisis and we are committed to training more GPs in the UK - but it takes at least 10 years to train a GP, and lifting the cap on Tier 2 visas is a very positive step in addressing the workforce pressures facing general practice in the shorter term."