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We need to be more positive about general practice, says new RCGP chair

Exclusive: General practice needs to be ‘talked up’ and made more ’attractive and stimulating’ in order to improve the profession, according to the RCGP’s incoming chair Professor Martin Marshall.

Professor Marshall told Pulse that general practice is making some progress in tackling the recruitment crisis but the reason it is not ’great progress’ is due to a need for more effort in making general practice more attractive for younger and older doctors.

In his first interview since being elected chair, he said it is good news that there are more people expressing interest in training places, but it is not ’immediate good news’ to struggling practices as it will take three years till those people are in a general practice post. 

However, he added: ’I think partly it’s about talking up general practice more, making it clear what an attractive and stimulating and fascinating career general practice is. I think we need to do that more effectively.’

Professor Marshall explained the role of a GP must be made ’more do-able’, particularly for GPs already in the workforce.

He said: ’It’s partly about making the job more do-able, both for young doctors and to keep them in workforce, but actually for older doctors in their 50s and 60s, the people who look at their pensions, who look at their workload, who look at the risk that they’re carrying and just decide they’d rather give up.

’I think those people, the people who do have the greatest experience and expertise, you need to keep in the workforce and you need to make an attractive offer to them, which is partly around pensions but it’s also about workload.’

Late career GPs coming up to retirement age still want to be in the profession, they just need to be offered something more attractive, according to Professor Marshall.

He continued: ’If I look at some of my peer group who are in the process of retiring now, they haven’t lost love in general practice, they still love general practice, they still want to do it.

’If you were to offer them a four-session contract as a salaried doctor with three sessions doing clinical work and one session providing leadership for the developing team, that would be a really attractive offer and I think that would be one of the ways of keeping more people in the workforce.’

Professor Marshall added that while this is the current situation for retention in general practice, it’s happening too slowly because ‘at the moment general practice is a tough job.’

He said that keeping current GPs in the workforce engaged and excited about their jobs will be achieved by reducing workload.

He said: ‘Fundamentally, doctors want to feel that they’re doing a good job. They want to feel they’ve got space and time to do a good job. They want to feel that they’re valued by their colleagues and by the system, and when you’re not you burn out.’