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RCGP must change or it will die

I am a GP, GP trainer and forensic physician, working mainly in a rural practice with full QOF points this year.

My practice is well respected by our deanery and our medical colleagues, yet most of our GPs are lapsed members of the RCGP. Despite my best efforts, I cannot convince them that membership is good value.

So where is the college failing to engage with grass-roots membership? Recently I started a discussion online and was taken aback by members’ feelings about the college’s relevance. A few ideas kept coming up which I feel require wider consideration.

What follows is my personal wish list for change:

  • I want the college to provide high-quality, good-value local postgraduate GP education relevant to everyday practice.
  • I want the college to represent and defend the profession, putting members’ rights before those of any other organisation and becoming more of an advocate for GPs.
  • I want the college to devolve resources locally – I see little justification for a hugely expensive flagship headquarters in central London.
  • I want the college to stop meddling with contractual issues and leave that to the BMA.
  • I want the college to rely less on a relatively small number of college activists – an example being the woefully low participation in recent council elections (13%).
  • I want the college membership examination to be provided to doctors in training at the lowest cost possible and at the most convenient locations.
  • I want the college journal to become more relevant to everyday practice and less esoteric.
  • I want the college to engage with all its members and abandon the cronyism apparent to outside observers.

I realise the college cannot be all things to all GPs. But I believe unless it can tackle the general disaffection of a lot of active GPs, its future is in great doubt.

With all new GPs in the UK having to pass the college exam, surely this is the moment to consider root and branch change to encourage the newly qualified to remain active members – and perhaps even to encourage lapsed members to re-enter the fold.

We need a vibrant new college that is truly representative of most GPs.

This is my personal opinion and I am determined to remain a college member so I can hopefully see a change in direction and priorities. I am somewhat encouraged by the rise of Dr Clare Gerada and Dr Una Coales, who seem to want to modernise college thinking. I only hope change happens sooner rather than later.

From Dr Mark Cathcart
Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland