Professor Steve Field Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners
The Royal College of General Practitioners is the UK’s largest medical royal college with over 38,000 members working to raise standards of patient care across the UK and internationally.
MP or GP we should want the same things for patients
As we all get set to cast our votes in next month’s General Election, I hope we can count on one definite among all the uncertainty – that improving the healthcare of our patients will be top of the agenda for the new Parliament, whatever shape it might take. The RCGP election manifesto Leading the Way: High Quality Care For All Through General Practice, launched last month, sets out our ‘wish list’ for the future of patient care across the UK, making a number of proposals designed to promote healthier lifestyles and produce a healthier society. The manifesto presents a set of recommendations for driving up standards for patients across the UK. It demonstrates the leading role that GPs have to play in health promotion and preventing people from becoming ill in the first place, as well as in managing and treating disease. Divided into three main sections, it calls for action under each heading:
• High quality GP care for all • Care for patients closer to home • Improving the health of the nation Top of our list is a call for the average consultation time between the patient and GP to be increased. At the heart of general practice is the relationship GPs have with patients and on an average day more than one million consultations will take place in general practice. As the population ages, more patients will have long-term and increasingly complex health conditions. GPs need more time with their patients to discuss their care and treatment options and we would like to see the average consultation time increased from 10 up to 15 minutes, if patients need it. The ageing population and worrying population trends such as rising obesity levels mean that the GPs of tomorrow will need to tackle many different and difficult challenges. The RCGP introduced the first ever GP training curriculum back in 2007 and it is expanding according to the changing needs of patients – which means there’s a lot to cram into three years. Our current GPs finish their training as competent – but not necessarily confident – doctors. Increasing GP training to five years will help us produce future generations of doctors fully equipped to deal with the demands of the NHS in years to come. Our manifesto also calls for:
• Increased support for the RCGP “federated”
model of patient care – with GP practices pooling their resources and expertise to deliver more services to their patients in their local communities • Better access to talking therapies for adults and children • Better and faster access to diagnostic tests • Improved services for socially excluded groups including those with learning disabilities and the homeless. GPs have a key role to play in the public health agenda and the manifesto makes sensible recommendations for tackling smoking and alcohol misuse – including graphic warning labels and minimum price levels for alcoholic drinks. We also want to see a ban on smoking in motor vehicles including private cars carrying young children. Parents wouldn’t intentionally let children breathe in car fumes yet passive smoke exposure is affecting the lives of around two million children in households in the UK. While our demands are ambitious, we believe they are realistic and, most importantly, achievable. GPs are already providing so many of the solutions for the healthcare systems in the four countries of the UK and we are on standby to do more with the newly-elected MPs and Governments – whatever their complexion. Whether we are MPs or GPs, our aim should be the same – to ensure the highest quality healthcare for our patients or constituents, wherever they live in the UK By working together we can achieve this.