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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Brief encounters - Dr Clare Gerada

Dr Clare Gerada is a London GP with a portfolio career. She has held senior national positions in the Department of Health. She was the founder and first director of the RCGP substance misuse unit, is currently vice chair of RCGP council and has a special interest in mental health.

Dr Clare Gerada is a London GP with a portfolio career. She has held senior national positions in the Department of Health. She was the founder and first director of the RCGP substance misuse unit, is currently vice chair of RCGP council and has a special interest in mental health.



What made you want to be a doctor?

My father, who was a respected GP. The surgery was at our home and I loved the atmosphere and the stories about medicine that dad would tell in the evening. From about the age of 10 he would take me on home visits. He would talk about the link between poverty and illness and he showed how being a GP could help bridge this social gap. During the long talks we shared about medicine he taught me lessons that have stayed with me ever since. By his example he showed me that the art of being a good doctor was listening and that has been my mantra throughout my career.

What single thing would most improve the state of medicine in the UK?

I feel that a reality check is necessary, so we can see that, despite what the papers say, GPs are providing a fantastic service to the vast majority of patients in our care.

What single change would most improve your working life?

A wife.

What makes you angry?

When GPs are made to be the scapegoats for all the problems of the NHS and we are held responsible for social inequalities and their impact on health.

Who has had the biggest influence on you as a doctor?

My husband, Simon. The other influence has been Allyson Pollack, professor of public health and health policy in Edinburgh, whom I admired even before she became a friend.

Which historical figure in medicine do you most admire?

Paul Ehrlich – a pioneer in chemotherapy.

What do you think will be the biggest change in general practice over the next 10 years?

General practice has moved a long way over the past few decades, yet despite this the core elements have remained the same. I worry that over the next decade, under the guise of modernisation, general practice will become something very different with much larger practices, perhaps based in hospitals or polyclinics, delivering care to non-registered patients and having many patient groups split off and managed elsewhere.

What newspaper do you read?

The Guardian.

How is the modern GP different from their counterpart of a generation ago?

I never do night calls now, choosing instead to delegate these to the out-of-hours service. When I first started all notes were in Lloyd George files: now most practices are paperless. The practice team in 1970 consisted mainly of the doctor, the receptionist and, if lucky, a district nurse. Now our team comprises some 60-odd staff.

How interested are you in money?

I enjoy spending money that I have worked so hard to earn. I have few obvious material possessions but have expensive holidays and live in central London so need a reasonable income.

Is medicine a vocation?

Absolutely – though it does rather beg the question ‘what is a vocation?'. For me, it's about being a public servant, about making sure that every interaction with a patient is (as far as it can be) a positive one, it's about constantly striving to make a difference for people and patients.

Are any members of your family doctors?

My father and husband are both doctors and I am trying to persuade my sons, but they are not interested. They say: ‘We have seen how hard you and Dad work.'

If you weren't a doctor what would you be?

A teacher.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career as a doctor?

Go for it. It's a long journey but without a doubt it's worth it.

Why did you get involved in GP politics?

Many moons ago I was invited to do a King's Fund leadership course. This course gave me the confidence to apply for the role of chair of our commissioning group and I have never looked back.

Have you ever suffered sexist attitudes from colleagues?

Sexism is definitely on the decline in my line of work. But sometimes I do tend to feel as though I am being patronised or my opinion ignored in meetings. With the rise of an increasing number of extremely intelligent female doctors this attitude is bound to change.

Dr Clare Gerada

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