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Don't denigrate profession in front of trainees, RCGP chair tells GPs

GPs should avoid making negative comments about the general practice profession in front of trainees, according to the chair of the RCGP.

Speaking at Pulse Live Birmingham, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard suggested that although GPs do need to vent their frustrations, they should do so only when in the company of senior colleagues.

This follows earlier suggestions from RCGP for medical schools to crack down on negative 'banter' against general practice as a profession.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: 'We all need a safe space to be negative and a safe space to vent. Use your peers and your seniors to vent. Don’t vent on your juniors, it’s destructive and unhelpful.'

She added: ‘For every negative thing you say to a trainee, somebody else has got to say ten or more good things to reassure them there is a future for general practice.’

At the same conference, Professor Stokes-Lampard also addressed the thorny question of GPs moving to a salaried model - after being forced to deny earlier this year that the GP partnership model was 'unfit for purpose'.

Professor Stokes-Lampard told the Pulse Live audience: ‘The partnership model won’t be right for every area of the country. Indeed in [one area of] Brighton all seven practices have handed back their contract. They just couldn’t recruit. The partnership model died there.’

Brighton has seen seven practices close in the past two years – including four closures that have displaced a total of almost 9,000 patients since NHS England’s support package was announced in April last year - and an eighth is due to close later this year.

Professor Stokes-Lampard also said that she was personally ‘sad’ that some areas had lost the partnership-model approach. But she pointed out that some areas do go salaried ‘because they’re visionary and some do it out of desperation’.

She added: ‘It’s sad but it’s the way it is. I’m not going to try and hide the truth. This is a fact.

'Some parts of central London, some parts of Birmingham, and well Brighton, [the partnership model] is gone.

'It was too late, it was too difficult, they had to do something different and be creative. And they have turned it into a success in some places.’

She warned that the hardest thing about changing from a partnership model to a salaried one is retaining sensitive patient care.

‘If you care about your patients, you want to have a long-term relationship with those who need it.

‘You get a better therapeutic relationship if you know the patient, their contacts, their family, their social and psychological factors as well as their physical – and retaining that is difficult but it’s being done brilliantly in some places.’

Should GPs talk up the profession to new entrants?

Professor Stokes-Lampard’s comments come as the GP recruitment crisis does not appear to be showing any signs of recovery.

In May, Pulse’s annual practice vacancies survey was answered by 860 GPs and revealed that 12.2% of all positions are currently vacant – up from the 11.7% reported at the same time last year.

The RCGP and Royal College of Psychiatrists teamed up last year to call for an end to negative 'banter' in medical schools, which they claimed amounted to 'systematic denigration’ of general practice and psychiatry careers, putting off graduates from choosing the specialties.

Although the campaign had the hashtag #banthebash, the colleges insisted at the time they were not about 'prohibition of banter' but about ‘fostering respect between specialties'.

Meanwhile, medical schools which aim to boost GP trainee uptake by exposing students to general practice could see extra funding, under Government plans outlined earlier this year.

Readers' comments (76)

  • Quick. I need a safe space to say what I think of the RCGP...

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  • I've only be a GP for three years and my kids won't be doing medicine. I can see where she is coming from but we can't be dishonest to trainees. It is in a mess. And they're not entering the profession at a very good time. To say so otherwise would be a probity issue

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  • If we tell trainees bare faced lies about how great it is to be a GP then they will find out we have been untruthful . We will then be up before the GMC for bring the profession into disrepute by being lying bastards .

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  • Vinci Ho

    ''If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.'' Do you know who said that , Helen?
    More importantly,
    ''The pessimist looks down, and hits his head. The optimist looks up, and loses his footing. The realist looks forward, and adjusts his path accordingly."
    The Walking Dead

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  • Cobblers

    These ‘Trainees’ that the Prof wants to protect can see the writing on the wall. They are bright and young. They can read for themselves :

    mene, mene, tekel, upharsin

    In modern parlance it translates that an almighty being (J Hunt) has decreed the end of the Kingdom of the NHS.

    I would seriously doubt that anything I might say to them would cause them to change what is as plain as the rather large nose on my face.

    That being said I hope I have realigned some A level students keen on medicine, to reconsider their priorities.

    No more than I would do, given my time again.

    And frankly if the head of the RCGP tells us all to stop spouting the truth then we are truly buggered.

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  • Don't tell the children (how shite it really is)
    Lest they make an informed choice
    And get out whilst they can
    Reprehensible
    Grab a life jacket ASAP

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  • You can't really recommend General Practice in the current climate, to do so would be dishonest

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  • This comment has been removed by the moderator

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  • Proposing dishonesty as a modus operandi for general practice is particularly bizarre. If I did that, I would not be surprised if I received a knock on my door from GMC.

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  • The thing is....trainees are a highly intelligent, elite bunch.

    As a Training Programme Director, I am really mindful about not projecting negativity, which is a lot easier since I stopped being a Partner. However - I cannot change the truth and it is my duty to share information with them.

    My favourite game is when I run a session on practice management and I ask them to guess how much capitation we are paid per patient per year. I've even had one guess over £1,000 per year. When they are informed of the reality, is it any surprise they are truly shocked and horrified at the prospect of trying to run a business on the paltry sum of around £85 per patient per year?

    How about trying to change reality instead of telling us off for teaching it?

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