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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Professor Clare Gerada: How does she do it?

The RCGP chair explains how she juggles her different roles and family commitments, in the first in Pulse’s new series on GPs’ working lives

As chair of council of the RCGP, I haven’t got a typical working day, though I do try and divide up the week, with Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and evenings spent on college business.

On Tuesday, for example, I had a meeting at the King’s Fund, then a session filming with the BBC’s Panorama for a programme about abortion. Then I had to give a keynote speech to the GP Foundation (part of the RCGP) and attend a lunch at the House of Commons promoting better continence care. The afternoon included a meeting with health minister Dan Poulter. In the evening I went to dinner with the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management.

Clinical work as a GP

I top and tail the week with clinical work for the Hurley Group – the group of practices in south London of which I am a partner – on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. I try not to interrupt that. It’s incredibly difficult but I have become very disciplined about it. In some clinical sessions I see patients who attend the surgery at short notice (many of whom do not have English as a first language).

I also see patients with substance misuse problems and sick doctors, for whom I provide continuity of care. I have been seeing some of them for 20 years. I am also chairing an integrated care pilot.

Tips for success

  • Get the basics right – home, relationships and family. It is really important to have support in those moments when it’s really tough. Don’t beat yourself up about family. Invest in as much good childcare as you can. As long as you are providing the right kind of home, the fact that you’re not always there will matter more for you than for them.
  • Be organised – I have fantastic secretarial support. People don’t believe me when I say that sometimes I have no time to send a text, but it is true. I get 1,000 emails a day so I can’t personally read them all. I try to have half a day off at the weekend but it is an honour to be chair of council and I owe it to the members to be available. I don’t have a cut-off time for stopping work in the evening, but I do now switch my phone to silent during the night.
  • Set the rules – the sick doctors and drug misusers I see through the Practitioner Health Programme can contact me directly by text because that is much easier, but I set the rules, and they do not abuse this way of contacting me.

What keeps me going

I have never had an entirely normal working life because I have always done several roles at once – for example, I used to run a clinic for homeless drug users when I was a GP registrar. The RCGP is inclusive, and has had inspiring leaders. Leadership is frightening. Every morning when I listen to the news I think ‘Is this something that’s going to affect GPs, and am I going to need to respond?’ But my role is immensely enjoyable.

CV

Qualified in medicine at University College, London, in 1982.

Trained in psychiatry and worked at the Maudsley Hospital in south London, specialising in substance misuse.

Qualified as a GP in 1992. Became a partner at the Hurley Clinic, a practice on the ground floor of a 19-storey housing estate in Lambeth in south London.

Awarded an MBE for services to medicine and substance misuse in June 2000.

Established the RCGP’s Certificate in the Management of Drug Misuse in 2001. Sat as chair of the RCGP ethics committee and council vice chair before being voted in as chair in November 2010. She is the college’s first female chair for 50 years.

Voted number one in Pulse's Top 50 GPs 2012 for the second year running.

Prof Clare Gerada's profile appears as part of Pulse's new Working Life series. Click here to read more.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Until Clare resolves the CSA situation i am afraid i and others continue to feel somewhat disappointed. Treating the younger generation of doctors the way the RCGP has done so is most distressing:

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  • I feel Prof Gerada has been and continues to be a truly impressive chair. I am particularly impressed that she openly challenged the Health Bill. I feel proud to be represented by this inspiring woman.

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  • I agree, her handling of the 'CSA' has been very disappointing and she has not risen as a leader to address the concerns and injustice to the ethnic minority. I hope she has the courage to rectify this and can undo the injustice that has destroyed and is still destroying many good and capable Drs. Otherwise , I fear , this issue will overshadow any good work that she may have done in the post.

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  • ....the RCGP is inclusive?!!!

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  • Nobody is indispensable the workload is just ridiculous and should be shared with colleagues.it isn't 'inspiring' or setting a good example to others .....it is also impossible to do a good job when working consistently like this

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  • Successful but controversial woman. Bless her family. She can win hearts of several thousand more families by resolving CSA fiasco.
    Remember you are not remembered for 1000 good things, but for one bad thing which affects millions( Tony Blair)

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  • Prof Gerada great article showing great achievements wish you more to come in life..... CSA big ?? You looked after sick doctors ??? there are many on the forum, doctors who do not find anything good happening or anything changing for them. Get the CSA right .....Do not back it by saying its fair and robust just because its an obligation being the chair. Look into it, change it. Trust me it will look good on your CV.

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  • Notwithstanding the controversy over CSA, in which many complex factors are possibly at play, I think Prof Gerada has been an excellent Chair, making herself accessible in many media, listening carefully to the views of the entire membership, and strongly opposing the Health Bill for which the government had no mandate and which is already proving the disaster that many of us said it would. That said, we do need to get to the bottom of the problems with CSA. I would favour a full independent inquiry. It would be expensive but I cannot see any other way of getting at the truth.

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