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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Finally, the leadership we need from Maureen Baker

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Falling as it does immediately after the Conservative Party’s equivalent, the RCGP Annual Conference is traditionally heralded in by a chorus of doctor-bashing headlines, freshly Ctrl-V’d from DoH comms releases by the hardworking journalists of our tabloid press. This year, however there’s a sinister twist on the age-old theme; now the red-tops’ target is not doctors per se, but foreign doctors. 'WE’LL GET MORE BRITISH DOCTORS' trumpets the Express. 'YOU’RE ONLY WELCOME UNTIL 2025!' screams the Annals of Speculative Cancer Aetiology.  

The shameful decision by ministers to employ this xenophobic rhetoric for political ends has real-world consequences for real people. We know from work done by the BMA and from countless anecdotes on social media that doctors have suffered an increase in racist abuse since the referendum in June. There are thousands of overseas doctors working in the UK, without whose efforts the NHS would have collapsed many times over.

These are my colleagues, the people who taught me how to be a doctor, the people who helped save my life that time my appendix tried to kill me. They deserve better than to find themselves suddenly demonised as substandard makeweights who’ve somehow overstayed their welcome.

The RCGP’s initial guarded response to this story had been to thank overseas doctors for their help, but this was immediately qualified with the suggestion that they might be 'equally or more needed' back home, in an inadvertent echo of the 'brightest and the best' argument espoused by Paul Nuttalls of the UKIPs.

I was very pleased, therefore, to see the outgoing chair of the RCGP demonstrate the very leadership that was the theme of her conference speech by publicly declaring support for international doctors and decrying xenophobia and racism. It saddens me greatly that such a proclamation should be necessary, but, as overseas graduate and NHS consultant Partha Kar has observed, this is when we need our medical leaders to stand up and be counted. All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.  

Maureen’s tweet was the highlight for me of a conference that’s themed 'Energising Primary Care' but had hitherto been anything but. We were promised Henry V, but treated instead to a succession of identikit Polonii, slowly reading the bullet points off their slides; all equally earnest and important but collectively about as energising as a nosebag full of Mogadon.

It makes you gaze longingly at SMACC and think that if GPs don’t want to be a derided specialty we seriously need to up our conference game.  I’m hoping next year we’ll have a more exciting RCGPAC, taking place against a much less toxic backdrop.

Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson

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Readers' comments (6)

  • Thankfully day 2 considerably more inspiring.

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  • I hate sycophantic rubbish. Had successive governments regulated medical school places for medical students in this country then there would have been less of a requirement for overseas doctors. Read your headlines some ccgs have over 2/3 complement of non U.K. Trained doctors.
    We now have medical student places on clearance. What in the name of what is good and holy is happening.
    Government and Universities failing the country.
    I have no objection to non U.K. Trained doctors helping the population of this country but it has happened for a reason.
    Inappropriate management, immigration of overseas doctors and inappropriate regulation of a large number of those doctors especially from Europe.

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  • What on earth is wrong with someone suggesting we might train more Drs in the U.K.? How is that racist and how do you infer from that the suggestion that our much needed non U.K. trained aren't valued?? What a load of victim searching drivel, so utterly terrified of causing offence that fixing the country's chronic under supply of Drs somehow becomes a xenophobia issue?? Madness, utter madness.

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  • Hi anonymous sessional/locum GP. I'm always open to constructive criticism, so take your "victim-searching drivel" comments on board. Of course it isn't racist to increase the number of doctors we train, but I don't believe that's what I said.

    Does the the headline "You're only welcome until 2025!" make non-UK-trained doctors feel valued? Does Amber Rudd's suggestion that companies employing non-British workers should be "named and shamed", with its implicit suggestion that foreigners are shameful, make non-UK-trained doctors feel valued? I don't think so.

    My point is that, as proven by the increase in racist abuse experienced by colleagues since the Brexit vote, the tone set by politicians and headline writers effects how our colleagues are treated in the real world. As a white UK trained doctor I've never been the victim of racist abuse, but it's happened to enough of my friends to make it my duty to stand up and say it's unacceptable. It's not "victim-searching drivel" if there are actual victims.

    Finally, I'm saddened you misrepresent me as "utterly terrified of causing offence". You could easily disprove this by having a look through my previous blogs, but if you don't have the time I could clear it up now by calling you a tedious sadsack who's too cowardly to put their name to their brainless opinions. Utterly terrified? Not me my friend.

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  • To the anonymous GP Partner. Are you blaming immigrant doctors for the shortage of UK trained doctors? What's your evidence?

    Are a large number of immigrant doctors inappropriately regulated? What's your evidence for that statement too?

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  • To Pete unfortunately I have to write anonymously but I agree with everything you wrote in main article & comment!

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