RCGP news

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

Same-day pharmacy consultations could help relieve GP pressures, says College

She said: "Introducing a greater variety of roles into the general practice team and making the best possible use of primary care professionals in the community is key to helping relieve the intense resource and workforce pressures facing GPs, and ultimately ensuring our patients get the care they need when they need it.

"Pharmacists are highly-trained healthcare professionals who already advise patients with a host of minor illnesses that don't necessarily need the input of a GP, recommend suitable over-the-counter medication and self-care treatments, and play an important role in medication management on a daily basis. In doing so, they are vital to delivering patient care in the community and alleviating pressures in general practice.

"However, whilst this new scheme is welcome, it is not a silver bullet to addressing the pressures in primary care. Pharmacists – or any other primary care professional – must not be seen as substitutes for GPs, so efforts to recruit more family doctors, retain the existing GP workforce, and make it easier to return to practice after a career break or period working abroad must continue and be redoubled."

Martin Marshall named new Chair-elect of RCGP

The two other candidates in the election, independently conducted by UK Engage, were Professor Simon Gregory and Professor Kamila Hawthorne.

Martin Marshall is a GP in Newham, East London, and Professor of Healthcare Improvement at UCL. He has been the College's Vice Chair for External Affairs since 2016 and in previous roles has experience of working in government and the charity sector.

Professor Marshall said: "I am honoured and humbled to be elected as the next Chair of the RCGP and will do everything I can to represent the views of frontline GPs across the UK. I have a passionate commitment to the values of the NHS, and to patient care, and our professional voice is central at this time of great change.

"I would like to thank my fellow candidates, Simon and Kamila, for running such a dignified campaign, and the members of Council who have put their trust and confidence in me.

"I would also like to pay tribute to our current Chair, Helen Stokes-Lampard, who will leave such a strong legacy for me to build on."

Unlike other Medical Royal Colleges, the RCGP has a Chair and a President. The Chair of Council is the leader of the College and sets its strategic direction and policy.

The President is the 'constitutional' head of the College. The two-year post is currently held by Professor Mayur Lakhani who will be succeeded by Professor Amanda Howe, also in November 2019.

Patient satisfaction results are 'testament to the incredible efforts' of primary care teams, says College

She said: "It is testament to the incredible efforts of GPs and their teams that patient satisfaction in general practice has remained so high – especially given the intense resource pressures currently facing our profession and the strenuous circumstances our colleagues are working under.

"The fact that 95% of patients say they have confidence and trust in the healthcare professional they saw, and 94% say their needs were met when they last visited their local practice, is something we, as a profession, should be very proud of.

"However, the knock-on effects of the pressures currently facing general practice are still clear, and patients are finding it increasingly difficult to access the services they need, when they need them, and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

"GPs are seeing more than a million patients a day across the UK, but this increase in patient demand is not being met with adequate levels of resourcing and staffing, leaving patients waiting longer for appointments and some GPs burnt out, which ultimately puts patient safety under threat.

"Today's results show how much general practice is valued, and rightly so, but also how important it is to protect our services and make sure that everyone, regardless of where they live, is guaranteed to get the care they need and deserve, every time they need it.

"That's why we need to see more resources and funding reaching the frontline in general practice, including effective implementation of the NHS Long-Term Plan, and more details about how the aspirations in the interim People Plan will be achieved through a clear, costed action plan, to ensure GPs and our teams can continue to deliver the best care possible to patients."

We must not become complacent with abysmal waiting lists, says RCGPNI

"Radically transforming our health and social care system was never going to be easy, but it is essential. We all have a part to play – including political leaders, clinicians, service managers, civil servants and patients – and we must work together to address the inherent challenges facing Health & Social Care.

"There is little to be proud of when we reflect on our abysmal patient waiting times. While attempts have been made to address these in recent years, there have only been pockets of success. We simply cannot become complacent and accept that it is the norm to wait for years, in some specialties, for elective care appointments with a consultant.

"Sufficient workforce numbers continue to be a huge challenge and recruitment of clinical and non-clinical staff across Health & Social Care is difficult at current levels. General practice services are under immense strain and waiting times only exacerbate the problem, as patients seek support and care from their only accessible healthcare professional – their GP. Despite the launch of the HSC Workforce Strategy last year, there is still no comprehensive plan to increase the number of GPs to ensure future sustainability of services.

"Positive steps forward have certainly been made in supporting patients and GP workload through the introduction of the new multidisciplinary team model, embedded in general practice. However, it essential that this model is fully funded and rolled out across the entire region as soon as possible to ensure equitable services for patients, and equitable support for GP practices.

"Genuine action must be taken to future-proof our health service and to address the serious issues we are currently facing."

Voice-assisted technology has potential, but we must not create a ‘digital divide’ between patients, says College

She said: "This idea is certainly interesting and it has the potential to help some patients work out what kind of care they need before considering whether to seek face-to-face medical help, especially for minor ailments that rarely need a GP appointment, such as coughs and colds that can be safely treated at home.

"NHS Choices (nhs.uk) is already one of the most reliable online sources for health advice, symptom and treatment information, and many people are familiar with voice-assisted technology and feel comfortable using it. Combining the two could be an effective way of accessing information about your health without leaving your home – thereby freeing up more GP appointments for those patients who need them most. However, it is vital that independent research is done to ensure that the advice given is safe, otherwise it could prevent people seeking proper medical help and create even more pressure on our overstretched GP service.

"While some patients might want to use symptom-checkers in this way, not everyone will be happy to do so and many people will not be able to afford the expense of this equipment, thus widening health inequalities and making access to care even harder for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

"Technology can be brilliant, when used appropriately, and it is playing an increasingly important part in the way we deliver care to our patients throughout the NHS, but we must be careful not to create a 'digital divide' between those patients who can afford it and are able to use it, and those who can't.

"Patients who are frail often have more complex healthcare needs so it is important that they do not rely on this as their sole source of health advice, but seek the help of a healthcare professional such as a local pharmacist who can give further guidance on whether they need the expert care of a GP for more serious or ongoing symptoms."

RCGP welcomes roll-out of HPV vaccine to year-8 boys from September

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "There is very strong evidence that shows the HPV vaccine can protect people from a virus that can trigger a wide range of cancers that affect both men and women, so it is vital that as many eligible boys and girls as possible get inoculated.

"We are pleased that the HPV vaccine will be given to year-8 boys, as well as girls, from September – this is something the RCGP has long-called for. The potential of this vaccine to save lives and prevent the complications of cancer is huge, and since it has been available on the NHS for girls, it has had excellent take-up, with impressive results - it's important this success is replicated with boys.

"We'd encourage all parents of eligible children to get their child vaccinated when it is offered, and if they miss the round for any reason that they let their school nurse know, so that they can be invited to a 'catch-up' clinic. It is also important that professionals across education and health are vigilant in offering it where appropriate, and checking that children in the eligible age bracket have had their vaccination."

Primary Care Networks have undeniable benefits, but there is no 'one size fits all' approach to solving GP pressures, says College

She said: "Primary Care Networks are essentially groups of practices working together and aiming to work with other agencies to deliver improved care for patients - and collaboration can have great benefits, particularly at a time when general practice is facing such intense resource and workforce pressures.

"Working in networks should allow general practices to pool clinical and administrative resources, as well as making it easier to introduce truly multi-disciplinary teams - ultimately it should help to free up GPs' time to spend with patients who need us most, and improve access to more integrated services for our communities.

"However, there is no 'one size fits all' approach to resolving the pressures facing general practice, and while structural reorganisation like this can be positive for surgeries with sufficient resources, others will need a lot more support and time to develop.

"It is also essential that for Primary Care Networks to succeed, they are owned and designed by GPs and our teams - not subject to top-down imposition from commissioners. We are part of our local communities and are best-placed to understand our patient populations and their needs.

"As well as embracing new models of care, we need to see the other promises laid out in the NHS Long-Term Plan delivered in full, and more detail about how the aspirations in the interim People Plan will be achieved, as soon as possible."

Take steps to keep symptoms under control and help prevent 'back to school asthma', says RCGP

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Asthma is an extremely distressing condition affecting one in 11 children, but in the majority of cases can be well-managed by parents with the support of GPs and our teams who are highly trained to identify symptoms, prescribe appropriately and monitor treatment to help patients of all ages.

"Part of keeping symptoms under control and preventing asthma attacks can be identifying and avoiding potential ‘triggers’ such as cigarette smoke, pets or alcohol. But other triggers like pollen, pollution, and very cold or very hot weather are much harder, if not impossible, to control.

"As this report highlights, some children find the start of the new school term an anxious time which could set off an attack in some vulnerable individuals, and there are clearly other factors at work that are not yet fully understood. So, it is crucial that schools are aware of the pupils who have asthma, and that there are adequate steps in place to support them including knowing when it is appropriate to summon additional medical assistance.

"When a child has asthma, it is important to follow the treatment plan agreed with medical professionals and never ignore symptoms if there are changes or the asthma is getting worse. Keep an eye on your child’s weight, help them stay active, and ensure they carry their inhaler with them at all times.

"While attacks can never be completely predicted or prevented, making sure that the action plan is up-to-date is one of the best ways to reduce the risk.

"If there’s anything non-urgent about your child’s asthma that’s worrying you, this can be discussed at your child’s next routine GP appointment where any changes can be made to medication or the treatment plan and inhaler technique can be reviewed."

Promoting healthy eating to children can have huge benefits for later life says College

She said: "Embedding the importance of living a healthy lifestyle in children at the earliest possible stage in their lives can have huge long-term benefits for their overall health and wellbeing – and eating a healthy, balanced diet is a key factor.

"GPs will always encourage our patients to eat healthily, including lots of fruit and veg, but we know that for some patients healthy eating can seem expensive or perceived as being difficult to prepare – particularly when they are faced with the temptation of cheaper, more convenient and unhealthy snacks – and this can lead to widening health inequalities.

"This doesn't have to be the case - there are lots of great ways to buy and cook fresh food more easily and cheaply – but it is nevertheless encouraging to hear politicians recognising the barriers that might exist to healthy eating, and putting forward ideas to tackling them."

Future GPs call for fair tariffs for primary care teaching
National guidance on funding of GP teaching has not been issued since 1995, leaving practices receiving around 40 percent less funding to train undergraduate students than their secondary care equivalents – equalling a total underfunding of around £44 million per year. 

GP practices currently receive on average £620 a week to host training placements, yet the true cost is estimated to be £1,100 - a 40% deficit, and around 40% less than the average amount received by hospitals to host training placements, despite costs being the same.

Medical students and trainee doctors from the Royal College of General Practitioners took hundreds of signed postcards to the Department of Health and Social Care on Wednesday, urging the Government to invest in primary care teaching and bring funding tariffs line with other areas of medical training. 

A selection of the signatures, collected by students and trainee doctors in medical schools and GP practices across the country, were presented to the department yesterday in an effort to bring the issue to the forefront of debate.  

Emma Tonner and Dr Devina Maru, RCGP national co-chairs of the Medical Student and Foundation Doctor Committee, said: "This issue is really important to medical students, but we need the Secretary of State to know that this is also important to patients, as well as qualified GPs and their teams. 

"Evidence shows that GP tutors have a profound influence on student perceptions of general practice. The higher the quality of the placement, the more likely we are to choose to train to work as a GP. 

"Making sure our tutors have the funding they need to teach us and still provide amazing patient care is so important. We hope that the government will listen and understand that this is about securing the future of the profession and showing young people that general practice is the route they should be taking."

Chair of the RCGP, Helen Stokes-Lampard, has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social care a number of times over the past two years calling for sufficient funding to be provided for education and training across primary care.  

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: "General practice is the bedrock of the NHS and we need at least half of medical students to choose the profession to ensure it will be fit for the future, yet undergraduate GP teaching continue to be severely under resourced compared to placements in secondary care.  

"GPs do a fantastic job caring for their patients and training the future workforce in the face of strained resources and rising workload. However, having to 'make do' with inadequate funding to host students is not sustainable. 

"The NHS Long-Term Plan sets out an ambitious vision for the future, with more care being delivered in the community where patients need it most - to make this a reality, it is vital that adequate resources are provided to fund high-quality teaching in general practice."

The RCGP and Medical Schools Council's 2018 report, Destination GP [PDF] highlights the critical role of GP tutors and high-quality clinical placements in developing the future GP workforce.