Wednesday 29 May 2013

What’s special about being a Grassroots GP?

In May 2013, Pulse magazine (for GPs) asked me to write a piece about myself as a self-styled grassroots GP for their "Working Life" section. I failed to follow the brief, so they did not accept it! Here it is, anyway.

What’s special about being a +Grassroots GP?

What a privilege it is to be my patients’ first professional port of call for just about any health concern.  Working, and sometimes living, in the same community, there can be a powerful sense of working together to restore health.  Intervening in a health crisis, whether it be supporting them through an episode of depression or admitting them with appendicitis, can be profoundly rewarding.  However, demedicalising their condition and providing reassurance instead of intervening, where appropriate, has the potential to benefit not only the patient in front of me but also, by conserving resources, my surgery’s other 5,000 patients.

This will resonate with every GP.  What could be more rewarding!  This is the essence of grassroots general practice.

I started using Twitter a couple of years ago.  My intention was simply to “lurk” and follow current affairs.  Before long, however, I found myself following and interacting with medical colleagues and others interested in health policy.  Indeed, it is difficult to know how I might otherwise have made contact with colleagues of every grade, whether fellow grassroots GPs or more eminent.

As such, a group of us got together.  Some of the values we share are set out on our website at Within the industry that healthcare now is, we aim to give voice to grassroots GPs.  Specialists, drug and other manufacturers, academics, political parties and charities are undoubtedly all vital.  Unfettered by the pragmatism of generalists in daily contact with patients, however, health anxiety will continue to escalate and the health economy to overheat at the expense of the sick.

Our royal college is enriched by the wisdom of many senior GPs.  We certainly need them.  However, we believe that the views of grassroots RCGP members also need to be well represented.  I was delighted to read of Chair-Elect Maureen Baker’s aspiration for RCGP Council to be more accessible.  I believe having more grassroots GPs on Council and making better use of digital social media such as Twitter will help.

To this end, six of our group of Grassroots GPs (Martin Brunet, myself, +Pete Deveson, +Margaret Mccartney, Stuart Sutton and Jonathan Tomlinson) stood for election to RCGP Council.  Voting has now closed but I do hope we will have more grassroots representation as a result of your votes. [Update: I'm delighted to say that Margaret was elected]

Day in the Life: Dr John Cosgrove, Grassroots GP

My day job will be much like that of grassroots GPs up and down the country, facing pressures which seem to grow day by day, dealing with the expectations generated by those who seem to know our job better than we do.  However, more than matching any frustrations is the richness and variety of interactions, not only with patients, but with trainees and colleagues both locally and at other sites.

I recently joined +Midlands Medical Partnership (MMP), composed of 33 partners across 10 sites across Birmingham, with over 60,000 patients.  By grouping in this way, we believe we can meet the threats GPs and their patients face and make the most of opportunities in this Brave New World, while preserving the best of GP-led primary care and grassroots values to the benefit of our patients.  If you think your practice would fit well into this evolving organisation, do get in touch!

Ever since I qualified and joined RCGP eight years ago, I have been an officer of +Thames Valley Faculty RCGP (where I lived and worked until last year), representing the views and interests of grassroots GPs across that region.  I like to think that our faculty and board are now at least as accessible as ever.  On a personal level, I have found this involvement richly rewarding (if not financially!).  I know local faculty offices would be delighted to hear from any member interested in getting involved, so do get in touch!

In my down time, I am wont to pick up my smartphone and tweet.  I rarely have a set agenda on Twitter.  Indeed, some days the mood will not take me.  However, sometimes the temptation to interact, 140 characters at a time, is irresistible.  Mostly, but not always, the topic is primary care.  Of course, there is a limit to what is appropriate to post in such a public forum.  For those seeking guidance in this area, the RCGP Social Media Highway Code written by Ben Riley and Clare Gerada, is well worth a read.  That having been said, like minded souls on Twitter can be a valuable connection.  “Follow” me at @DrJohnCosgrove!

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