Many had hoped that having a well-respected GP at the helm of NICE would make its guidelines more grounded in reality. They may well be disappointed.
For instance, the recommendation to halve the risk threshold for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease earlier this year created a furore amongst the profession.
Whilst the debate over the evidence raged, many GPs just sat with their head in their hands imaging the huge amount of workload such a shift entailed.
And this came after NICE was forced to reverse draft guidance that removed paracetamol as an option for pain relief in osteoarthritis.
Professor Haslam has largely stayed above the debates over guidelines, but has stepped in occasionally to claim that NICE is not in an ‘ivory tower’. But on the evidence of the past year, it is not surprising that many GPs wonder what the point of NICE is.
Having been both President of the BMA and RCGP as well as RCGP chair, it was Professor Haslam is certainly influential. He was selected as one of 20 healthcare professionals in the 500 most influential people in Britain by the Sunday Times this year.
He was a GP for 35 years and although no longer practises, it is a profession he spends much time promoting. He says: ‘I have spent a fair amount of time talking to ministers and governments around the world, not just about NICE – but also about the vital importance of primary care.’
What he did not expect when starting out was that his career as a GP would see him decades down the line addressing a meeting at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, as he did recently.
As a young medic it was GP legends Professor Sir Michael Drury and Sir Donald Irvine who convinced him general practice was the way to go.
‘After the countless teaching hospital consultants who had talked in a derogatory way about GPs, these two remarkable doctors were a breath of inspiring fresh air, and proved to me that general practice really could be a noble and worthwhile career,’ he says.
His advice for today’s GP: ‘Don’t forget to look after yourself as well as you look after your patients.’