Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wrong tack?

So shall I dip my toe into this water? Challenge the RCGP and thereby the GPs..or are they a separate entity?  Let me set my stall out at the very outset..don't know about politics but amongst the mates I have grown up with, those who are GPs, I see less of, they arrive late for the football games, look a bit more knackered, so this isn't a debate about who works hardest. Let me be perfectly honest, most GPs, I know work harder than me and unlikely to have as good a work-life or as Mark Cheetham likes..work-family balance.Thats not a condescending sop to balance for what I write below, but as I see it day in, day out.

Nope this isn't about that...this is more about the pathway or tack adapted by the RCGP akaThe Royal College of General Practitioners... it's made me wonder...is the RCGP more of a collegiate institution or a trade union? I say so without prejudice but mostly from point of view of my own college which has tended to adapt a "hands off" approach to political changes,for good or bad..though in all fairness, their engagement as regards the future hospital has been laudable to say the least.

But the RCGP in recent times has slightly baffled me as quote unquote one of my GP colleagues "it just says more GPs". Which in itself is an interesting position in my book, as the ethos behind that seems to believe that more GPs will solve the problem while on the ground, if given a choice,for right or wrong,I would probably have more practice nurses, more community DSNs...whatever be the case, certainly more primary care staff, not necessarily "just GPs"

It is at this point I can already hear murmurs saying what qualifies me to speak about such an issue? The answer is probably not much but am giving a perception, from the outside if you may, that the position sounds too siloed. Put patients first...absolutely 100% with you....But not by saying lets just have more GPs. Not by saying "give money from hospitals"...believe you me, hospitals aren't running in rosy balance sheets either. I appreciate I offer perhaps a narrow siloed view but diabetes care isn't going to be resolved or improved with more GPs...more primary care staff...absolutely 100%.
As an analogy, you will never find me go out and say we should have more and more diabetes consultants...not certainly when we still haven't evolved enough to work differently and learn to help primary care more, rather than do our clinics in the traditional way,still ducking behind the spectre of information governance and shying way from patient access.More on that chestnut later.

Which brings me to the next point...on one hand, the clamour is for more GPs..on the other hand, posts can't be filled, people are leaving,social media is abuzz with burnouts, GPs themselves encouraging others to leave,tough working life..all this publicly played out...impact? I teach medical students and the proportion of folks considering becoming a GP continues to dwindle. Recently I asked on twitter what makes a GPs job attractive and there were some wonderful stuff,absolutely inspiring..heck...if I had my time again, may have gone for it myself. So why the lack of balance? Yes jobs are busier but to say working conditions haven't improved from say, 20 years ago, isn't right either, is it? You can't attract generation next by being negative...careful you don't end up being the reason why no one wants to do primary  care anymore. Those who work with me know that without being condescending, I am very public and open about my admiration for GPs but a bit of balance is needed.

I can only offer tips from history...recruitment in our specialty a few years back was low, with poor job prospects...there is a session at the Annual conference in diabetes UK called the Consultant/SpR session which happens every year. And year after year, as an SpR, I went there and heard people just moan, talk about how life was bad, negative..and a bunch of us sat in the audience and vowed to change that. The SpRs had a 10 minute slot and we decided to showcase the positives in front of everyone...give it a bit of balance and energetic people like Emma Coull, Pratik Choudhury, Marc Atkin went up on stage and said "No" to the negativity..and people started walking way from that session feeling all was not lost, positives were the too. It's our job to inspire generation next, not to push them away. Yes, of course realism, not shying away from the toughness but a bit more balance too, right? It's great to say we will "make" people do more generalists, "make" more GPs....one fundamental flaw? You can't make anyone do anything they don't want.


The NHS will struggle to exist, not because of political restructuring or any other reason, but simply will collapse if we don't have a robust primary care. The wizards have only a few spells in their magic box....if the gatekeepers stop to exist, the facade of sorcery may well be under threat. A campaign designed in the right spirit hopefully will not end up alienating the rest of the workforce...let alone the next generation. Politics is a part of what we all do...but in that game, hopefully the campaign doesn't t do more damage to the future of primary care. Have a think.

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