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NHS does not value GPs, says newly elected RCGP chair

Exclusive The NHS does not value the vital skills that GPs have, Dr Maureen Baker has told Pulse in her first interview since being announced as the chair-elect of the RCGP.

Dr Baker will take over from current chair, Professor Clare Gerada, in November, and she said that the biggest challenge facing general practice was rising workload and poor morale.

She told Pulse that she would use her position to ‘build on the strength of generalism’, and gave signs she would move away from the more confrontational style of her predecessor.

Dr Baker won the election by 37 votes against opponent Dr Steve Mowle’s 21 votes today. She was originally announced chair after the nominations board found a ‘technical error’ with Dr Mowle’s application. However, the RCGP council overturned this decision ‘in the interests of democracy’.

She told Pulse the burden on GPs was becoming a major problem for the profession, and that she would look to promote the role of generalism.

She said: ‘There are a number of major challenges, including undoubtedly workload and poor morale.

‘That is partly because the struggle to cope with the increasing demand with decreasing resources in general practice is working its way through and making its presence its felt in people’s surgeries, consultations and day-to-day work.’

She added: ‘We really need to build on the strength of generalism. The NHS and healthcare generally needs the skills of the medical generalist. The system more widely doesn’t value highly enough, doesn’t really appreciate what generalists can do or need to do. I very much want to promote GPs and generalists.

Dr Baker has been a GP since 1985 and was honorary secretary of the RCGP from 1999-2009. She said that her role is to improve patient care, rather than challenge Government, in a signal she may adopt a less confrontational stance with ministers.

She said: ‘I don’t think the College’s role is fundamentally to challenge Government, it is to make the best standards of care for patients. If it is necessary to challenge Government, then yes, we have to do that. But we should always be thinking ‘what is the most productive way to raise issues and get changes?’. I think we have to deal with that issue by issue.’

Dr Baker added that she will consult with council members, faculties and other stakeholders ready to announce ‘a number of pieces of important policy work’ when entering office.

She also said she will be joining Professor Gerada as an active member of the social networking site Twitter in November. One GP tweeter, @paulpogwolves, wrote: ‘it’s going to be like Moyes replacing Fergie replacing @clarercgp tweeting #bigshoestofill.’