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Gerada’s grand entrance has caused a bit of a storm

The new RCGP chair has come in with all guns blazing… prompting cheers from many GPs, but a chilly response from the Department of Health, says Pulse editor Richard Hoey

The response was bordering on rapturous. GPs listened to what incoming RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada had to say, and the great majority liked what they heard.

‘Hurrah for someone talking a bit of sense at last,’ said Dr William Hynds on our website.

‘Goes to prove not all appointments are irrelevant… some can be very effective upgrades,’ said Dr Santosh Krishnan, just a little stingingly.

There was one distinctly impolite comment (to her predecessor) about how it had taken a female chair to grow a set of anatomy more normally associated with males…

But there was one place where Dr Gerada’s grand – and grandstanding – entrance went down rather less well. They haven’t, it’s fair to say, been rolling out the red carpet and applauding her into her new role down at the Department of Health.

Sir John Oldham, the GP appointed to lead the DH’s QIPP programme in primary care, put it delicately. ‘Clare has a very individual way of putting things,’ he said. ‘The reality is her members are already implementing some changes, because the white paper is patented around what they have already achieved.’

DH officials have been rather more blunt off the record about the impact of her comments. Her interview with Pulse was circulated around most of the leading figures in the department, including outgoing primary care tsar Dr David Colin-Thome, director of primary care Ben Dyson and the new commissioning tsar Dame Barbara Hakin.

It’s fair to say her comments haven’t gone down well. ‘They didn’t understand why she had gone on record with them,’ one DH source said.

Our story this week suggested that Dr Gerada’s interview marked an abrupt shift in the RCGP’s relationship with the Government. The key question for GPs is where that shift will take the profession.

Will it get back its voice, as part of a recast relationship based on openness and honesty? Or will it become frozen out and ignored, its relationship with power fractured, detached and heading towards divorce?

Richard Hoey, Pulse editor