The chief executive of Londonwide LMCs is softly spoken, but her voice is one of the most powerful in general practice. Often working behind the scenes, Dr Michelle Drage is a pragmatic and incredibly experienced politician who is widely respected in the capital.
Over the past year she has had to cope with breach of contract notices being issued to practices that closed over Christmas, a myriad of payment issues and around thirty practices in the capital being at risk of closure.
It has, she says with characteristic frankness, been a particularly bleak year. ‘It’s been a year of unprecedented negativity for GPs and their practices,’ she says.
But no-one could accuse her of lacking vision. Londonwide LMCs released its blueprint for the future of general practice in February, in which it called for practices to be given resources to provide longer appointments and access to support for patients 24 hours a day.
She says her role is to offer on the ground help and support, ‘being there for our GPs when it feels that nobody else cares’, and ‘constantly lobbying and influencing everyone else’s agendas on their behalves against difficult odds’.
She describes London’s GP service as ‘nothing short of miraculous’ as it deals with a million diverse and complex patients face to face, managing 90% of NHS activity with just 7.5% (and falling) of the resources. But on the up side they do have Dr Drage in their corner.
So what bit of key advice does the head of the Londonwide LMCs have for those youngsters joining the profession at a time of great turmoil? ‘Stick to your GP training values however hard the system tries to beat them out of you.’