Dr Maureen Baker will go down as one of the more effective RCGP chairs. She was nominated by colleagues for her ‘exceptional leadership’ of the RCGP and for ‘fighting for the patient’, and her vigorous campaigning has had some major victories over the past 12 months.
Early in the year, the RCGP chair was intimately involved in the launch of a 10-point plan from the NHS in England to boost the number of GPs. It was a significant intervention that was largely prompted by Dr Baker’s lucid warnings of a major shortage of GPs, and was backed by £10m of new funding. A big win.
At the election, it became clear just how far the RCGP chair had helped change the terms of the national debate about general practice, with the major political parties competing over the number of new GPs they could supply.
Dr Baker has also made a powerful case for other professionals working in practices to ease the workload of GPs. Her joint initiative with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to put more pharmacists in practices was backed with £15m of new funding from NHS England and a recent workforce commission largely backing her model of practices employing a greater range of clinical and administrative support staff, such as physician associates and medical assistants.
But her tone has sometimes sounded discordant with the everyday realities of general practice. A marketing campaign aimed at medical students that claimed ‘this was the best time in a generation to become a GP’ was seen by many as an oversell, and by some as deliberately misleading.
And Dr Baker’s anaemic response to the ‘new deal’ announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt after the election – she said it ‘will put general practice on a more stable and secure footing’ – was widely regarded as a major strategic error when the package of measures was neither ‘new’ or any sort of a ‘deal’.
Nevertheless, Dr Baker is nothing if not a fighter and she says that this next year will see her concentrate on the dangerously high level of workload that GPs are experiencing.
She says: ‘Policy makers need to understand that pushing GPs to the limit of endurance is completely counterproductive to delivering good patient care.
‘Our members’ concerns about the pressures they are facing are at the core of everything the College does – and we will continue to fight vigorously to create a new era for general practice in which we have the time to care for our patients, backed by the appropriate resources and sufficient numbers of us to make this happen.’