Thursday 24 October 2013

Thames Valley Faculty Chairman's report 2013

It has been a joy and a privilege to represent college members in Thames Valley Faculty for the last nine years, the last three of which as chairman of the board. This final report to you comes tinged with an inevitable emotional overlay. Should I apologise for that? I found it more difficult than ever to find the words for this report, which therefore became longer than ever! I should definitely apologise for that. However, your Faculty just does so much.

I’m delighted to be able to say that two of the highlights of the Faculty year, namely our symposium and the management course, continue to flourish. Our symposium this year was held again in Thame and was well attended by both Associates in Training and established members. RCGP President Prof Mike Pringle delivered the inaugural annual Liz Bingham memorial speech. Liz gave so much to College and Faculty, it is fitting that she should be remembered in this way. My thanks go to Michael Mulholland and his team for planning this year’s event.

Management course
Greg Simons, Chris Morris and Nicky Turner have now made their mark on our management course (initially set up by Bryn Neal, of course). This seems to be as popular and highly valued by delegates as ever. It is great to see this continue as a fixture which members can rely upon. Thanks again, Greg, Chris and Nicky.

Education programme
Nicky Turner’s main role in Faculty is to run our programme of educational events. Under her brilliant direction, this had reached the exciting point of being able to look to address members’ educational needs rather than simply what is popular. Any GP will understand the distinction and the benefit thereof! We had a slight hiccough during this year for personnel reasons outside of local control but, happily, the programme is now firmly back on course. Our courses are becoming more popular as they become established, so book early to avoid disappointment. Check your PDPs against our programme now!First5
More recently, we have worked to support our trainees and new members in particular. Regular First5 meetings (for those in their first five years of membership) are now taking place across the region. I am particularly grateful to our First5 reps, Sunaina Wanninayake and Sunaina Khanna, for their work in this area, and would like to take this opportunity to wish Sunaina the very best as she relinquishes this role.
I am particularly pleased to be able to share with you that our Provost Ken Burch, who oversaw a mentorship programmes when he was Chairman, has been working with Shamila, Sunaina and a band of volunteer mentors to rekindle this popular and much-needed scheme. Whilst appraisal provides valuable guidance for us all, informal meetings with a wise colleague to guide career development can be invaluable. Details of how to join our mentorship scheme will be announced imminently.

We have been fortunate enough to have trainees who have found time in their ever tougher training schedule to devote to Faculty and College. Amongst our AiT reps this year, Amar Latif has represented Thames Valley trainees at the national AiT committee. We have been pleased to support social events for AiTs. This year I’m told they have not ruled out allowing established members to attend their upcoming Ball!

One of Ken Burch's many roles as Provost is to encourage members with the right experience to apply for Fellowship and support them through the process, as well as to chair the fellowship nomination committee.  As with anything Ken undertakes, he very often goes the the extra mile to make sure everything is in place. Thanks to his tireless efforts, we have recommended 12 members for fellowship this year.  It is a relatively straightforward process, so if this is something you are interested in, do contact Ken for advice.  Further information can be found on the main College Website.

A very new initiative for us has been establishing connections to support family doctors in Myanmar (Burma). Family medicine in Myanmar is in its infancy. It is fantastic to be able to support them as best we can. This initiative has been led on our side by Eleanor Vogel, Caroline Nixon and Sundee Soe-Naung. The energy with which they have embraced this project has been breathtaking. Already they have run a highly successful fundraising event on our behalf at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. I have no doubt that this work will be hugely beneficial for primary care in Myanmar and would like to wish them every success and pledge our support in this venture.

We are blessed to have such an enthusiastic and vibrant board. I always come away from board meetings with such a sense of energy. Colleagues express and debate with mutual respect their views to reach a consensus on everything from Faculty business to the Health and Social Care Act through the MRCGP exam to data protection. When such discussions lead to a rethink, they are all the more valuable.
The dedication and enthusiasm of colleagues has been remarkable and I thank you. Writing this report every year causes me to realise what a debt of gratitude we owe to so many talented and wise GPs for the work they do on our behalf on a voluntary basis. I know I have learnt a tremendous amount from you. With your commitment, I know that Faculty is not only in safe hands but will serve its members better and better.

If truth be known, the success of your Faculty is, in many ways, down to our tireless and highly skilled administrative and managerial staff. When I first joined the board, Sue Daniel valiantly fulfilled this role from her home office in Maidenhead. With the move to Andover, we were fortunate enough to recruit Jenny Gorski, who now provides business support for faculties across the region.
Shelley Coburn, our current administrator, just makes things happen for us. She has to deal not only with your needs but also with the requirements laid down by College and the tax man to keep everything above board - as they most surely are. She has been joined this year by Tania Hilton and Julia Hanlon in turn, who have helped to make sure that our education programme runs as efficiently as you, our members, deserve and require.

You hardly need me to tell you about the challenges of rising demand and expectations, limited resources and incessant system change. Primary care continues to lead innovation to respond to these pressures. The core challenge for your Faculty, I humbly suggest, is to listen to the concerns of jobbing GPs so that these may be represented effectively by College at the national level. I know GPs in Thames Valley, with their patients’ interests first and foremost, have a powerful voice. Your Faculty can coordinate this voice to have an impact on national policy.

Your representatives on Faculty board do present eloquently their views on your behalf. If you would like to join the board and contribute to this debate, please do get in touch.
We recently sought your views on assisted dying using an online survey. If you have any other thoughts about how Faculty might best discern and represent the views of our members, please let us know, either through your local board representative or directly to our office.

If you will indulge me for just a moment longer, this is the end of a significant chapter of my life. I have learnt a great deal from Thames Valley Faculty and I hope I have been of some service. Although I am moving on, it will be business as usual for your Faculty, composed as it is of such dedicated, thoughtful, capable and connected GPs. I pass the baton to a uniquely talented group of your representatives.

Good bye and thank you.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Question to Jeremy Hunt at RCGP conference 2013 (Harrogate)

Following the speech of Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, to RCGP conference, I asked him how he planned to control demand. Some might say his government and the preceding Labour government have done nothing but fuel demand for NHS resources.

This was the question I posed:

Improving access, awareness and screening programmes may have been very well intentioned but requires patients to compete for resources, and benefits providers paid for activity (and their shareholders) disproportionately. 

Health education to empower self care, strengthening of support networks and meeting social needs have great potential to improve access to healthcare by reducing demand. 

What policies will the government introduce to control demand and ensure NHS resources are concentrated on those most likely to benefit?
He answered with reference to self care of chronic diseases (diabetes). I liked his use of the term "normally well"; I would have preferred to hear how he planned to spend less on them rather than more.