The incoming chair of the RCGP takes over the most senior role at the college at a time when GPs face escalating workloads, practices are expected to operate through new networks and digital services are throwing up safety concerns.
Professor Martin Marshall has been close to these issues for some time, having been the vice chair for external affairs at the RCGP since 2016.
In an interview with Pulse to mark him being named the profession’s most influential GP this year, he says his key focus will be tackling GP workloads, which is ‘the biggest threat to general practice’.
The east London-based GP is also keen to ensure new clinical directors leading networks have the support they need, to avoid them being overburdened.
While being an advocate of networks, he also has reservations about whether they will be able to succeed, as NHS England and local commissioners are tempted to pile on additional responsibilities.
He also echoes his predecessor – Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard – when he warns that while there are some things commercial online GP providers, such as Babylon, ‘have done well’, he says ‘I just don’t think that they’re the future’.
His other role in academia – as professor of healthcare improvement at University College London – and previous post working as the Government’s deputy chief medical officer seem an ideal combination for an evidence-based, pragmatic approach to lobbying on behalf of the profession.
In the past year at the RCGP he says his standout moments included ‘being a member of the RCGP team which has at last persuaded government that general practice is essential for the NHS’.
He also points to work that has involved adapting QOF so practices are supported to manage not only single diseases, but are also encouraged to improve approaches to more complex areas of responsibility.
However, during his tenure he will be expected to address ongoing controversies at the RCGP, such as allegations that the MRCGP exam is discriminatory towards BME candidates, disproportionately leading to higher failure rates.
Why influential: The new head of the RCGP
What others say: ‘Enthusiastic, persuasive, pragmatic, impatient’
Random fact: His wife is about to buy a puppy – and they’ve not had a pet before