Anita Campbell is a retired GP, Sheffield.

As we sat at our computer screens and spent a minute in silence on March 23rd 2021 reflecting on the collective loss of lives due to the pandemic, and other individual losses, a sense of very strong comradeship emerged. What was going on in this remote meeting? What was different?

As members of the RCGP LCARM group we came together from all over Great Britain and Northern Ireland (quite unusual in itself). As Members, Fellows or non-members of the College we all have so much to offer each other and beyond. This article reflects on a year of pandemic in which many of us have experienced furloughs, periods of sickness and grief. LCARM has only existed since 2019, yet when we listened to the reports from each Faculty, and considered the organic growth that had taken place, both amongst our peers, and also intergenerationally, we decided to share our pandemic experience. Despite the challenges (or maybe because of them) we were finding our strength and our voice.

….a year of pandemic in which many of us have experienced furloughs, periods of sickness and grief.

Some Faculty representatives were early to join the National RCGP LCARM group and others joined more recently. As a result of the National LCARM group forming, we have worked together on events and other national initiatives, including RCGP Annual Conference presentations and contributing to RCGP working groups.

There is a sense that some events and working can, and will be, very local, and others will draw strength in numbers from across the UK. Joint working across faculties is exemplified by the White Rose Collaboration in Yorkshire which joined with faculties in the North West to have a Northern Regional approach.  Borders have become less important for virtual events, and the Midlands Faculty collaborated with Northern Ireland to run an event offering a perspective of General Practice in the pandemic. We shared experiences of returning after retirement, discussed advice on financial planning in retirement and offered well-being support. Forty members from all four countries in the UK took part, giving richness to the conversation and greater understanding of our differences and how we all have managed during the pandemic.

Some local events have been in webinar format, with invited guests speaking followed by discussion. Others are more support based; just sharing experiences can be very powerful. An example of the latter would be the Northern Region’s “What Up Doc?” a coffee morning where there are breakout rooms and a chance to share thoughts in a supportive environment.

Some local events have …. invited guests speaking followed by discussion. Others are more support based.

Rural GPs have supported each other through a weekly Covid blog, with poetry and Covid news, our rural LCARM representative highlighting the importance of arts and maintaining a theme of humanity in this crisis.

We have shared ideas on different types of events and on the topic of supporting GPs returning work e.g. the NHS 111 service, those returning to GP education, mentoring and coaching. Then vaccinating proved popular, especially as there was much red tape to be negotiated first. GPs in the peri-retirement years have played their part in the national effort in many ways, and Faculty LCARM meetings were a place where information could be shared. A local Faculty LCARM WhatsApp group proved useful in this way. Some Faculties have explored further what LCARM can do to combat climate change.

The nature of GP consultations by necessity changed during the pandemic, and telephone triage was a popular webinar topic for several faculties, as was assessment of children and sharing experiences of returning to work from retirement or delaying retirement decisions.

LCARM GPs have always taken various roles in the voluntary sector with their incredible transferrable skill set, and LCARM events have been a forum for hearing about the opportunities to support the NHS and the wider population. Voluntary roles opened up, for example within Practitioner Health as part of their Peer Support pilot and working for Foodbanks and local neighbourhood support networks. There has been interest shown during local events in diversification of careers and this, in turn, led to contributions to the LCARM landing page of the RCGP website.

GPs have always taken various roles in the voluntary sector with their incredible transferrable skill set.

Looking forward, in the summer, hopefully if lockdown continues to be lifted, there will come a point when face to face meetings can restart. Although these will be local events, we see the regional and national discussions between LCARM leads continuing. Local events can be inspired by national thinking. An idea which is spreading across Faculties is one which can be developed as a national toolkit and taken up by individual Faculties. The idea of “RCGP Families” is spreading in this way. “RCGP Families” can support intergenerational discussions between medical students who are part of GP Societies, through Foundation doctors, GP Trainees, GPs at the coal face and those who are in peri-retirement and retired.

We look forward to encouraging later career and retired colleagues to apply for Fellowship. Additionally we are working to support greater diversity in the RCGP, locally and nationally. We are aware of the underrepresentation of GPs from BAME communities in our work and will be seeking to address that deficiency. LCARM leads, some of whom are experienced mentors and coaches, have joined the new RCGP mentoring platform and the group will feed back how this is progressing. We will discuss further the specific needs of LCARM GPs, such as the regulatory complexities of returning to work after retirement.

Mona Aquilina has led the national group through this time of pandemic. She inspires those around her with her enthusiasm, both about what LCARM can contribute, and also what the college can do to support the wellbeing of GPs in the peri-retirement years and beyond.

Retired or semi-retired GPs … will continue to be valued.

Retired or semi-retired GPs have been and will continue to be valued and embraced by the RCGP, the NHS and Health Education across the four nations. LCARM networks throughout the UK are also open to non RCGP members. The LCARM landing page on the RCGP website gives the local contacts for each LCARM lead: https://www.rcgp.org.uk/training-exams/practice/later-career-and-retired-members-committee.aspx

 

Featured photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash