Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and Dr Steve Mowle, RCGP Honorary Treasurer, talk about COVID-19 and the challenge ahead.
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Steve Mowle (SM): My name is Steve Mowle, I’m the treasurer here at the Royal College of GPs and today I’m here really as the deputy lead for COVID-19 in the College.
Martin Marshall (MM: Hi, my name is Martin Marshall. I’m chair of the college and a GP in London
SM: So, Martin the first question I’d like to ask you… Lots of members are writing in and are asking this simple question: what is the College doing to support its members during this COVID challenge.
MM: So this is a massive challenge for the College and one that we’re rising to. It is so important that we prove ourselves to be useful for our members. We recognise that probably the most important thing at this stage is information. There’s nothing worse than the information vacuum and I know a lot of clinicians out there feel like they just don’t know what’s going on. And the main way that we respond to that at the moment is through the development of the website. So we have a COVID specific part of our website and we’ve got a number of resources that we’re developing on that. The website is available and there for people right now, some of those resources relate to frequently asked questions. So we’ve gone out to our members and said what are the key issues for you, we’ve taken them back to the clinical advisory group that we’ve just established and the answers are there. We’ve also put national guidance on the website as well, so that it’s available there in a simple accessible form and in parts we’ve had to adapt that national guidance as well.
So that’s one part of the website, the second part of our website is a CPD resource, our RCGP learning team, which is a phenomenal team, developed some really good, really useful practical resources, clinical related and practice management issues. And the third part of our website is going to be discussion forum which we are establishing very soon, which will be chaired by our President, Amanda Howe and that’s going to give members an opportunity to exchange ideas and have questions and answers as well.
SM: Martin, so what sort of conversations have you been having with government ministers and senior leaders within the NHS recently.
MM: Well, one of the most important roles of the College is our ability to use our our links and networks and influencing opportunities with government particularly at a time like this, so we’re working closely with government. We have an effective working relationship with them, we’re supporting them at a time of great need, we need to work together as a team, often we are providing some very practical advice for them, helping them to write guidance, for example. But at the same time as being supportive, we’re also in a position, because we have effective relationship, we are in a position to challenge them and there are a number of really important issues on which we are challenging them. For example, current guidance about the isolation of people who possibly have been exposed to coronavirus but they’re not sure. They’re detached from the workforce, they really want to be in there supporting their colleagues so we are challenging them about that. We are challenging them about self testing, so that people can get tested and get back into the workforce as quickly as possible as well.
SM: And are there things that you think the College has actually achieved through these negotiations?
MM: Yes very much so and I think that’s a consequence of the good relationship that we have and the respect in which the College is held. And so for example we pushed very hard for the Care Quality Commission inspection regime to be stepped back and that’s happened which is great. We’ve pushed very hard along with GPC colleagues in the BMA to reduce some of the contractual requirements, that’s happened as well, we’ve also encouraged educational colleagues to step back on appraisal as well, all that’s happened as well. So I think in a range of different ways, because we’re respected, we’re making reasonable offers those are being listened to and they’re being acted upon.
SM: Great, thank you. So is the College doing enough then?
MM: Not yet. We understand the enormous pressure that general practices is facing, the stress that people are feelingm, this is a massive crisis for all of us, when you can see your colleagues going off and when you know that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s a massive challenge for us, we’re doing our absolute utmost to respond to that challenge. We are producing more and more information which we are putting onto our website, a whole range of ideas about how we can engage with our members and support our members both emotionally as well as in terms of information… we want to improve the quality of information, we want to improve its presentation. We’ve got a lot that we need to do, we working on it really hard, we’re going to get there.
SM: Thanks Martin do you think general practice is ready for the next few weeks?
MM: Well that’s a really big question isn’t it, because you know this is a massive challenge. This is the biggest challenge that general practice has probably faced for generations. It’s the biggest times the NHS has probably ever faced, we know that general practices are gearing up, they’re getting into the right place to be able to do this, we also know that it’s a massive challenge and there’s lots of things that require. Some of which are within, some of which are outside general practice control. We need more guidance, we need better equipment, and better technology, in particular personal protective equipment… we need to make sure that we’ve got enough to deal with what is going to be a crisis which is getting worse, we’re going to need to use people more, we need better technology particularly to help us to do online consultations as well… so there’s a range of ways in which we need more resource to allow us to really get into an appropriate state of preparedness, my feeling is that we’re going to get there.
We do have to remember though, this is the biggest crisis that we probably have ever had to face and we have to remember that it’s going to get worse than it is now… the peak of the crisis is probably going to be a few weeks, maybe a month or so away, by that time we need to be really prepared, as prepared as we possibly can be to deal with it.