Professor Clare Gerada has arguably been the most media-savvy voice at the RCGP for years – and certainly the first to reach some 20,000 followers on Twitter. He clear, immediate defences of the profession during the many media storms of 2013 were praised by those nominating her.
As one panel member put it, ‘her accessibility was the key to her credibility’. Others called her ‘a true champion’, ‘best chair ever’, ‘tireless’ and ‘inspiring’, singling out her support of GPs when they were blamed for the A&E crisis and her high-profile campaign on shrinking practice funding. She was also particularly praised for her work on Pulse’s Battling Burnout campaign.
There have been dark moments. The discrimination row that blew up on her watch is still not resolved, the college has had to cope with a financial crisis and she has been criticised for being too ‘political’.
She admits that her media work has often provided some of the most difficult moments. She reports feeling physically sick on Any Questions, and debating the A&E crisis on BBC’s Newsnight was also stressful.
‘I don’t think NHS leaders should criticise one another – at least not in public,’ Professor Gerada remarks. ‘But it happens more often now, as we’re all under increasing pressure.’
But Professor Gerada has proved the position of chair can be used to good effect to critique Government policies and, although not everyone agrees with what she says, her boldness in defending the profession commands huge respect from her peers.
Although she says that she intends to ‘sleep’ when she hands over the RCGP reins to Dr Maureen Baker next month, she has already signed up for a controversial and high-profile position at NHS England to ‘transform’ primary care in London.
She told Pulse that one of the first things on her new to-do list will be starting a debate about whether the independent contractor status of GPs is a help or a hindrance to more integrated care.
‘The RCGP has talked about federations,’ she says, ‘but I’m not sure now that it’s enough – I think we need to be more adventurous.’
Professor Gerada continues to head up the Practitioner Health Programme, and remains a practising GP and partner within the Hurley group of practices in south London.