Updated: 21/08/2019 12:17
She said: "Exercise can have a hugely positive impact on our physical and mental health, so making it easier for people to be more active as part of their daily routine – both at work and in their leisure time - is key to helping patients live a long and healthy life.
"This new quality standard from NICE offers useful advice for professionals and commissioners across society – and for employers, it includes pragmatic suggestions that can be tailored to workplaces of different sizes and with varying resources available. We would urge employers to seek to swiftly implement the recommendations in some capacity as ultimately, a healthy workforce will be a more productive, and hopefully happier one.
"Physical Activity and Lifestyle is a clinical priority for the RCGP and we have developed resources to support GPs and other healthcare professionals to encourage their patients to live healthier lifestyles. We will soon launch our own scheme to tackle sedentary behaviour in the workplace, which should complement NICE's new quality standard."
It will look at the impact of physical injury and associated mental health issues on veterans – and the impact on their families – bringing together GPs and the wide range of health professionals 'under one roof' for clinical conversations on the care of those leaving the Armed Forces community.
Critically, it will be an opportunity to network with veterans themselves who will talk about their own experiences. It will also showcase the College's 'veteran friendly' GP practices initiative, supporting GPs and their teams so that patients who are veterans of the armed forces and their families get access to targeted care where appropriate.
The event is being supported by the Ministry of Defence and NHS England and NHS Improvement and will feature a video message from Veterans Minister Tobias Ellwood highlighting the importance of good quality care for veterans and their families, and what is being done at Government level to support those returning to civilian life after serving in the armed forces. Kate Davies CBE, NHS England and NHS Improvement Director for Armed Forces Health will also speak about what the NHS has done and is continuing to do to support the military community.
There are around 2.6 million veterans in Great Britain, and 18,000 service people move back into civilian life every year, including 2,000 who leave the armed forces on medical grounds.
The event will look at the links between physical and mental health, especially in the treatment of chronic pain, and how to provide services that will accommodate the different health needs of 'different'generations of veterans – World War 2 era, Falklands and Northern Ireland age groups and former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dr Jonathan Leach, Joint Honorary Secretary for the RCGP, said: "Our veterans have differing and complex injuries as a result of their military service and they may need targeted advice, treatment and support: This forum will reflect the importance of the relationship between patient, GP and specialists across the NHS pathway.
"GPs want to do the very best for all our patients, but one of the challenges we face in general practice is that we are not always aware of how many veterans we have on our practice lists, especially when patients choose not to divulge their veteran status.
"This event will support family doctors and other health professionals in becoming more aware of the needs of their patients who are armed forces veterans, and make sure that healthcare professionals are aware of the various referral pathways to specialist help, including Veterans Trauma Network and Veterans' Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison (TIL) Service.
"These people have served our country, often the detriment of their own health and the stability of their family life. We owe them a great deal, not least in making sure that they have access to high quality NHS care and services."
The important event is part of ongoing activity to improve the care and treatment of veterans. This includes the recent distribution of a comprehensive package of resources for GPs covering how to identify veterans and make sure their service is recognised by hospitals and other services, as well as how to access mental and physical health care tailored to their needs.
Read the Veteran friendly practices page
The call comes as RCGP Scotland launches a new report, From the Frontline [PDF], which draws on feedback from GPs across Scotland and their thoughts and experiences within the profession.
RCGP Scotland Chair, Dr Carey Lunan, said:
"General practice is at the frontline of the NHS, playing a crucial role in providing care to patients in the heart of communities across Scotland. GPs tell us that workload pressures, rising patient demand and underinvestment in general practice are having a significant impact on them and their patients.
"Nearly forty percent of GPs report that they feel so overwhelmed by their daily tasks that they feel they cannot cope at least once per week. A quarter also report that they are unlikely to be working in general practice in five years' time.
"General practice is the backbone of a sustainable NHS. Our patients deserve better and it is time to renew general practice in Scotland. We are calling on Scottish Government to commit to urgently bolster the GP workforce and increase the level of spending in general practice to 11% of the overall Scottish NHS budget. Taking these steps will help ensure that general practice is able to provide high quality patient care that meets the current, and future, needs of patients in Scotland. This is fundamental to meeting the Scottish Government's own aim of delivering more healthcare at home, or in a homely setting.
"With an increase to 11% of the NHS budget, additional GP funding would flow to the areas of highest patient need. This will help to tackle the root causes of health inequalities, improve GP recruitment into areas of deprivation which traditionally struggle to attract GPs, and reduce pressure on vital hospital services."
Also welcoming the new report, Dr Andrew Buist, Chair of BMA Scotland's General Practitioners Committee, said:
"General Practitioners work tirelessly to ensure that their communities are living healthy lives, and even against the backdrop of underinvestment in healthcare, rising patient demand, and increased workload, they do a sterling job.
"They are the first line of defence for our country against ill-health, and they need more support in tackling health inequalities. This report underlines why addressing GP workload, which has in recent years reached unsustainable levels, is so vital if we are to protect and grow GP numbers. That has been the BMA's priority in negotiating the new GP contract and now it is essential that the promises made to GPs on additional staff and services are delivered by health boards and the Scottish Government."
From the Frontline is accompanied by a new campaign from RCGP Scotland called #RenewGP. In addition to calling for 11% of the Scottish NHS budget to make Scottish general practice fit for the future, the campaign identifies six key calls:
Provide time to care. GPs must be given the time they need to care for their patients. 10-minute appointments do not work for an increasing number of patients or GPs. Minimum 15-minute appointments as standard would enable patients to have more choice over their care, especially when they have multiple conditions. This would be achieved only by the introduction of more GPs into the system in Scotland.
Safeguard the future of the NHS in Scotland. We need a National Conversation, led jointly by politicians, healthcare professionals and patients, to promote sustainable use of the NHS and safeguard its future.
Tackle health inequalities. GPs serving areas with high socio-economic deprivation should be appropriately resourced to ensure that the NHS is at its best where patients need it most. This will be possible when 11% of the Scottish NHS budget is allocated to general practice.
Planning for the future workforce: As our population lives longer with more long-term conditions, Scotland needs more GP capacity to build and lead our community healthcare teams. In order to accurately assess and plan the workforce needs for Scotland's future, the Scottish Government must collect figures and report on Whole Time Equivalent GPs, not simple headcount figures, so that workforce plans of the future are accurately and reliably informed.
Improve healthcare systems for the benefit of patients and GPs. Urgent investment in IT is required to ensure that systems work more effectively together, improving reliability for clinicians and patients.
Promote Scottish general practice to a new generation of doctors. Investment is required to enable 25% of the undergraduate medical school curriculum to be delivered in primary care.
Reflecting on the new campaign, Dr Lunan said:
"General practice in Scotland needs to be properly funded if it is to continue to provide the high-quality care that meets the current, and future, needs of patients. We have identified key areas where improvement needs to happen and will continue to work with colleagues in Scottish Government, BMA Scotland and the NHS to ensure the best outcomes for both patients and GPs."
She said: "Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can have life-changing consequences for patients if not identified and treated early, so it's deeply concerning to see a rise in the number of STIs in England.
"Some of this rise may be due to better and more vigilant STI testing, which is good, but it is also likely, as the report notes, that more people are practising unsafe sex, or not using contraception correctly.
"It's important that patients never feel embarrassed to seek help if they think they have an STI or if they want to discuss contraception as GPs and healthcare professionals working at sexual health clinics are highly-trained to have open, non-judgemental conversations about a wide variety of problems and the best way forward.
"But today's report also highlights some dire consequences of cuts to sexual and reproductive health services in England – and the fragmented way in which they are commissioned, meaning that access to these vital services is difficult and confusing. There is a currently a postcode lottery in the UK on whether comprehensive sexual health services are available. The consistent cuts to local and public health budgets are putting some of the most vulnerable patients at risk, when their service closes and they cannot find another.
"Sexual and reproductive health services are too important to be allowed to fall into decline – as well as being essential for patients, they are some of the most cost-effective health interventions in the NHS, potentially saving millions through prevention of unwanted pregnancies and transmission of STIs, as well as helping women control their fertility and therefore, their lives.
"This is something we have highlighted in our Time to Act report, and more recently in our joint statement with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health on streamlining commissioning for these services. We will continue our work to ensure all of our patients have easy access to and receive the best possible sexual and reproductive health care."
"We welcome the focus on retaining existing, experienced GPs in the workforce, and appreciate the commitment in today's plan to address barriers to this, such as current pensions rules, and on making the NHS a workplace that people want to work in.
"We also know that providing appropriate support to GPs in the first few years after training is vital to keeping them in the workforce, so we welcome the concept of a two-year primary care fellowship scheme and look forward to more details as to how it will be delivered and funded.
"In general practice, increasing retention will furthermore be contingent on tackling GP workload and making our roles sustainable, so that hard-working GPs stay in work longer, and we can truly deliver the safe care our patients deserve.
"There is clearly still lot of work to be done over the coming months to flesh out the details in this plan. We are pleased to see that the report already acknowledges Fit for the Future – the College's vision for the future of general practice – and look forward to working with NHSE&I as to how our recommendations can be implemented.
"Whatever the next iteration of the plan looks like, it's essential that the forthcoming Spending Review ensures there is sufficient funding to deliver it.
"Training capacity in primary care must be developed, and the funding must be provided so that hard-pressed GPs have the time, resources and suitable premises to deliver the training for the future generations of GPs and the wider team.
"To this end, we have written to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock outlining the current unfairness in the way undergraduate GP placements are funded compared to secondary care placements and made clear that this must be addressed urgently.
"GPs and our teams deliver the vast majority of patient care in the NHS, and in doing so we keep the rest of the NHS sustainable, and we keep patients safe. This must be at the forefront of decision-makers' minds as this interim plan is developed."
She will take over the post from Professor Mayur Lakhani, who will demit office at the College's Annual General Meeting in November, after completing his two-year term.
The RCGP President is the constitutional head of the College. Unlike the other Medical Royal Colleges, it is the Chair who sets the strategic direction and policy. The current RCGP Chair of Council is Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.
The role was contested by seven College members: Professor Rodger Charlton; Dr John Chisholm; Dr Sunil Gupta; Professor Amanda Howe; Professor Roger Jones; Dr Imran Rafi; and Dr Carter Singh.
Professor Howe is Immediate past-President of the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA), and is Professor of Primary Care at the University of East Anglia and RCGP East Anglia Faculty Provost. She has previously served as RCGP Vice Chair for Professional Development and Honorary Secretary.
She will serve a two-year term from November 2019 until November 2021."
Election results for six Nationally-Elected Council Member candidates have also been announced. The successful candidates are:
Dr Kirsty Alexander
Dr Lucy Henshall
Dr Abrar Ibrahim
Dr Margaret McCartney
Dr Imran Rafi
Dr Catherine Tichler
Nineteen candidates stood for election. The successful candidates will begin their three-year terms of office from the College's governing Council meeting in November 2019.
RCGP Chief Operating Officer and College Returning Officer Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick said: "Congratulations to Amanda, and many thanks to the other six candidates who stood for the role of RCGP President. It was a truly fair and open contest.
"Amanda brings a wealth of experience of the College, academic primary care and frontline general practice. We very much look forward to working with her."
The elections were conducted officially and independently by Electoral Reform Services (ERS). Turnout was 14% of College Membership with the eligibility to vote.
She said: "These figures are sad but, unfortunately, not surprising. GPs and our teams are working to our absolute limits to provide safe, high-quality care, while general practice is under intense pressure, and this is resulting in some GPs leaving the profession, and in other cases forcing them to close their surgery doors.
"In some areas, practice closures are the result of surgeries merging or joining federations in order to pool their resources and provide additional services in the best interests of their patient population. But when a practice closes because resource and workforce pressures mean that it is no longer safe or sustainable to keep running, it's incredibly serious – and heart-breaking for everyone involved, especially those patients who have to travel long distances to their new surgery and get to know new teams, which is particularly difficult for the more vulnerable members of our communities and those who rely on public transport.
"The last thing that GP and our teams want to do is close their premises, and it will only be considered once every other alternative has been ruled out.
"Further closures must be avoided wherever possible. That's why we need to see the promises made in the NHS Long-Term Plan delivered as a matter of urgency, to ensure general practice has the people, resources, and investment we desperately need to continue providing world-class patient care, both now and in the future."
She said: "It's encouraging to see a rise in full-time equivalent GPs over the last quarter – and an even more pronounced rise in members of the wider practice team – but the reality is that we still have fewer GPs in practice than we did a year ago, despite our workload continuing to escalate.
"A lot of hard work has gone into boosting recruitment into general practice and as a result, we have more GPs in training than ever before. But it takes at least 10 years to train a family doctor from entering medical school, and we need more GPs now.
"If more GPs are leaving the profession than entering it, we are fighting a losing battle. We need to see initiatives being implemented to help retain our existing, experienced workforce and key to that will be addressing workload to make working in general practice more sustainable.
"Expanding the wider practice team is an important element of this, and something that features heavily in Fit for the Future – the College's vision for general practice – so it's great that overall numbers of these roles are increasing, but they must not be seen as substitutes for GPs, and numbers of some of our colleagues in vital roles, such as practice nurses, also continue to struggle.
"The government promised in the GP Forward View that we would see 5,000 more GPs by 2020, as well as 5,000 more members of the wider practice team. While the latter has been exceeded, and it’s imperative we keep this momentum up, it is the number of GPs that we remain desperately short of and without resolving this we will struggle to continue providing the world-class care our patients expect and deserve.
"Being a GP can be the best job in the world – it's intellectually stimulating, hugely varied, and rewarding – but we need to make it a more attractive career option for those who, because of the pressures, feel disenchanted, as well as doctors who have already taken the decision to leave.
"NHS Improvement's interim workforce strategy needs to include comprehensive plans to further boost GP recruitment, make it easier for trained GPs to return to NHS practice, and to keep existing GPs in the profession longer – as well as initiatives to expand the multi-disciplinary team in general practice."
She said: “The College has long been campaigning for GPs to be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), so we’re delighted to see that this is now being recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee, along with the inclusion of all other medical professionals, that are desperately needed in the NHS.
“GP workload is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity, but GP numbers are falling and whilst we currently have more family doctors in training than ever before, it takes at least 10 years to train a GP and we simply cannot wait that long.
“We welcome any GP - or other medical professional - from the EU or further afield who wants to work in UK general practice, as long as they meet the rigorous standards set by the College, General Medical Council and other bodies to ensure safe clinical practice, to contribute to delivering care to more than a million patients a day.
“Indeed, thousands of overseas GPs and members of our wider practice teams already work in NHS general practice, and we are incredibly grateful for their skills and expertise.
“Making it easier for appropriately trained medical professionals to come to the UK and work here is imperative to the future of our workforce and profession, and we hope our long-fought addition to the SOL will help make the process simpler and more straightforward.
“The NHS long-term plan has aspirations that will be good for patient care, but we will need the workforce to deliver it and adding medical professionals, including GPs, to the SOL is an important step to achieving this, so it’s vital that the government implements this recommendation.
“We now await the NHS People Plan for details of further initiatives to recruit more GPs, retain the existing workforce and make it easier for trained family doctors to return to practice after a career break or period working abroad – as well as plans to build the wider general practice workforce.”
It states that by 2030 face-to-face GP consultations will be at least 15 minutes, with longer for those patients who need it.
Recent research showed that the UK offers some of the shortest GP consultations amongst economically-advanced nations at 9.2 minutes – with another study finding that the average GP consultation involved discussion of two and a half health problems.
It's estimated that the number of people with a single chronic condition increased by 4%, and with multiple chronic conditions by 8% per year between 2003/4-2015/16 – and that patients with long-term conditions account for around 50% of all GP appointments.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It is abundantly clear that the standard 10-minute appointment is unfit for purpose. It's increasingly rare for a patient to present with a just single health condition, and we cannot deal with this adequately in 10 minutes.
"GPs we want to deliver truly holistic care to our patients, considering all the physical, psychological and social factors potentially impacting on their health. But this depends on us having more time to spend with patients, and the resources and people to allow us to do this.
"NHS bodies across the UK do not stipulate how long GP appointments should be, but GP workload is soaring, GP numbers are falling, and patients are already waiting too long to secure an appointment as a result. Without more resources and an expanded workforce, longer consultations would simply mean increased waiting times, undermining patients' ability to access the care that they need."
Fit for the Future – the College's vision of what general practice will look like in 2030 - was informed through consultation with more than 3,000 GPs, other health professionals and patients, as well as research commissioned from The King's Fund. It also predicts:
An overhaul of the GP-patient record into a personalised 'data dashboard', accessible by healthcare professionals across the NHS, and that will draw on data from the patient's genomic profile and wearable monitoring devices.
Networks of GP practices will evolve into 'wellbeing hubs' with expanded teams offering a wider range of services, both clinical and non-clinical – and that access will increasingly be via digital and video channels.
Continuity of care will be maintained and improved but delivered via 'micro-teams', so that alongside having a named GP, patients can build long-term relationships with several members of a multi-disciplinary team. The GP team will include established nursing and pharmacy roles, but also emerging roles, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, link workers, dieticians and health coaches.
GPs will no longer work in isolation – practices will work in networks or clusters, allowing them to pool resources and people, but facilitating smaller practices to retain their independence and patient lists.
A greater use of AI to improve triage systems that assess the severity of a patient’s health needs, enhance diagnosis, flag 'at risk' patients, and safely identify the most appropriate care pathway.
Professor Stokes-Lampard continued: "Much of what we envision for the future of our profession we are already embarking upon in some form or another – but we need to make sure that whatever we do is safe, evidence-based and ultimately works to make general practice and the wider NHS more sustainable. In many cases, we're simply not there, yet.
"Ours is an ambitious vision but it is not a pipe dream. Realising it will depend on having a sufficiently resourced service to keep people well and provide them with the care they need around the clock, and we have identified several key enablers to deliver this.
"With these building blocks in place we can not only deliver world class, patient-centred primary care, we can ensure that being a GP is the best job in the world."
The College's report states that realising the vision is predicated on six 'enablers', including that general practice receives at least 11% of the NHS budget in all four nations of the UK; the full-time equivalent GP workforce expands by thousands, as does the wider practice team workforce; and that GP specialty training is extended to at least four years to expose trainees to the full breadth of skills and conditions they are likely to need and see in general practice.
The RCGP will now develop four 'roadmaps' outlining in more detail what needs to be done to realise its vision and advocating to governments and decision-makers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland how to deliver it.
Professor Stokes-Lampard added: "Across the UK, patients have consistently high levels of trust and satisfaction in their GP service – they value general practice, the continuity of care it delivers, and how GPs and our teams deliver care close to home, thereby alleviating pressures across the NHS. We must protect our profession, and nurture it, for the sake of our GP workforce, the wider NHS and our patients.
"Things are incredibly tough at the moment for many working in general practice, but we have had promises of more funding, resources and GPs across the UK, a new five-year GP contract in England promising to ensure money gets to the front line of patient care, new contracts in Wales and Scotland, and new state-backed indemnity schemes in England and Wales.
"The pieces of the jigsaw are fitting together, and our vision should be the final piece, showing what the end result should look like – a thriving general practice service, continuing to keep the rest of the NHS sustainable and our patients safe - and how to achieve it.
"If everything is implemented effectively, we are at the dawn of a new era and I'm optimistic that the future of our profession - of the NHS, and patient care - is a bright one."
Read the Fit for the Future: a vision for general practice [PDF]
The psychoanalysts worked with groups of pioneering GPs in the 1950s, holding teaching and research seminars to explore the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationships and its role in diagnosis and treatment.
Their insights proved so powerful that there are still Balint societies worldwide dedicated to the training of doctors and to a sensitive and humane understanding of the tasks of medicine.
A blue plaque in commemoration of the couple's life and work will be unveiled at their former home at 7 Park Square West on Thursday (16 May) during a special ceremony to be attended by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Ruth Bush.
The commemoration is being made by the RCGP's Heritage Committee and the Balint Society - 50 years after the group was founded to continue their work.
This is the fifth blue plaque to be presented by the RCGP. Previous recipients are doctor turned novelist, Archibald Joseph Cronin; Fraser Rose, co-founder of the RCGP; RMS McConaghey, a member of the RCGP's Foundation Council and founding editor of the British Journal of General Practice; and Professor Richard Scott, the first professor of general practice in the world.
Michael Balint was born in Budapest on 3 December 1896. The son of a GP, he studied medicine at Semmelweiss University and later trained in psychoanalysis with Sandor Ferenczi.
He emigrated to the UK in 1938 following hostility towards psychoanalysis from the Hungarian Fascist Government. He began practising in Manchester before taking up a position at London's Tavistock Clinic.
It was there that he met his wife and collaborator, Enid Balint and became established an outstanding reputation in two distinct fields – as one of the foremost theorists in psychoanalysis, and a pioneer researcher into the doctor patient relationship.
Enid was born in London on 1 December 1903. After studying psychoanalysis, she began working at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and joined a group of social workers and psychologists committed to the idea of investigating marital problems.
Together, the pair developed Balint groups whereby physicians had means to share problems of general practice, specifically focused on responses of doctors to their patients.
The UK Balint Society was founded in 1969 to continue the work begun by Michael and Enid Balint in the 1950s. It is this year celebrating 50 years of helping health and social care professionals better understand the emotional content of their relationship with patients or clients as Balint groups now reach into hospitals, medical schools and community teams.
Michael Balint died on 31 December 1970 whilst serving as president of the British Psychoanalytical Society.
Dr Caroline Palmer, president of the Balint Society, said: "We are thrilled that the RCGP has publicly honoured Michael and Enid Balint and their work.
"The Balints had a profoundly positive effect on the development of general practice, and the Balint Society continues to foster links between psychoanalysis and general practice.
"All our GP members are also members or fellows of the RCGP and we are delighted that this occasion brings the College and the Society closer together – something especially exciting and significant as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Balint Society this year."
Professor Mayur Lakhani CBE, president of the RCGP, said: "I am pleased to be able to unveil this plaque as a legacy on the building where Michael and Enid Balint lived and where I am sure so many inspiring ideas were formed and which influenced generations of GPs.
"Their methods have helped us to better understand the holistic nature of general practice, offering insight about the relationships between patients and doctors that continues to be explored and which we still see having an impact on the profession and patient care today."
Thursday's celebration will take place at 7 Park Square West, Regents Park from 4.30pm. Special guests will include Caroline Palmer, president of the Balint Society; a former Balint student; the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Ruth Bush; and RCGP president, Mayur Lakhani, who will unveil the plaque.
She said: "Prescribing is a core skill for GPs and we will always aim to take into account the physical, psychological and social factors potentially affecting a patient before recommending any form of medication – as well as taking into account relevant clinical guidelines.
"Thyroid hormones are powerful drugs and GPs will only ever prescribe them if we think they are of genuine benefit to the person sitting in front of us, particularly as it usually means taking the tablets and being monitored in the long-term. If evidence shows that they are not going to be of benefit to our patients, it is important that we know this and that it is reflected in the clinical guidelines that inform our decision-making.
"The authors make a powerful case based on emerging evidence, and it is important that this new research is taken on board as clinical guidelines are updated and developed, in the best interests of our patients. It is also important that patients do not suddenly stop taking their thyroxine medication, but that they discuss this with their GP at their next routine medication review."
"Not every woman going through the menopause wants to be or needs to be on HRT, and clinical guidelines don't suggest they should be. However, the latest research does suggest that for many women, HRT can be a safe and effective intervention to alleviate menopausal symptoms.
"Evidence and myths around the use of HRT has been very confusing and contradictory – to patients and healthcare professionals - which is why it's important that clinical guidelines are updated regularly to take into account the latest clinical evidence, and that any changes filter down to doctors on the frontline of patient care.
"It is also vital that women have access to high-quality, evidence-based information so that they can make an informed decision based on their individual circumstances, in conversation with their GP, about the options available to them and the various risks and benefits of each.
"Women's Health is a clinical priority for the RCGP and we have worked with partners including the British Menopause Society, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health, to develop educational resources to support GPs and other healthcare professionals deliver the best possible care for women, based on the latest evidence."
More than 800 general practices have now signed up to be a 'parkrun practice'; linking with their local parkrun event to promote the health and wellbeing of patients and staff, and create entire communities centred on wellness.
parkruns are volunteer-led 5k events that take place each Saturday morning across the UK and are open to walkers, runners and volunteers of all ages and abilities. parkruns are socially-focussed with the emphasis on regular participation rather than performance.
To celebrate the first anniversary of the parkrun practice initiative launched by parkrun and the Royal College of General Practitioners in June last year, the two organisations have teamed up to hold a national GP parkrun pledge day. The aim is to get as many general practice staff as possible to pledge in advance, to join thousands of walkers, runners and volunteers at parkrun events across the UK on the same day.
The GP parkrun pledge day is the first event of its type, and builds on the success of last year's celebration across hundreds of parkruns to mark the NHS's 70th birthday. That day saw more than 146,000 people take part in parkrun, with a 14% increase in the number of participants who were inactive when they registered and 9,000 people participating for the very first time.
On 1 June, general practice staff across the country are being encouraged to pledge to participate in a parkrun event and also to bring their patients, family and friends along to walk, run, volunteer or spectate.
It is hoped that this special day will raise awareness of parkrun across the health sector and help promote sustained participation by those who are least active or have health conditions.
Inactivity is a leading cause of premature illness and death in the UK, and GPs and their teams play a key role in empowering their patients to get more active and improve their health. Thousands of GP practice staff up and down the country, including Dr Andrew Boyd, the RCGP Clinical Champion for Physical Activity and Lifestyle, are encouraging patients to take part in parkrun to help prevent, treat or improve common conditions such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. Andrew said: "parkrun provides an accessible, unintimidating local opportunity for patients and staff to increase their activity levels, and have fun doing it, all in the great outdoors – and for free."
Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Author, GP and star of BBC One's Dr in the House, said: "It is becoming more and more common for a patient's symptoms to be caused by our collective modern lifestyles. For many, it is a change in lifestyle that will address the root cause of the problem and have a lasting impact, rather than a pill that often will only suppress their symptoms. At a time when the NHS is under huge pressure – with prescriptions alone costing around £10 billion every year – equipping healthcare professionals to prescribe a lifestyle change, where appropriate, is extremely important. Nationwide initiatives such as parkrun that are accessible to everyone, free and socially-focussed have the potential to help people take their first steps to a healthier and happier lifestyle, and in doing so relieve some of the strain on our health service. I take part in parkrun with my family every weekend and have seen first hand the benefits it brings to individuals and whole communities. With 800 practices now signed up to be a 'parkrun practice' we are starting to embed the links between primary care and voluntary sector organisations, and build strong, supportive communities that are focused on health creation. The GP parkrun pledge day is a really important way of maintaining that momentum and celebrating the progress that has been made".
Dr Zoe Williams, RCGP Clinical Champion for Physical Activity & Lifestyle and TV Doctor said: "The parkrun practice initiative has been a huge success so far, with over 800 practices signing up in the first year. We've heard incredible stories from patients, their relatives and GP staff. From getting their smile back, to improving their physical health, to feeling a part of their community again, the benefits are wide and varied, and absolutely everyone is welcome. So please help us to spread the word and get as many GP practice staff as possible to pledge to walk, run or volunteer at a parkrun on 1st June."
Professor Helen Stokes Lampard, GP and Chair of RCGP said: "The RCGP partnership with parkrun has captured the imagination of GPs and their teams right around the UK. The walk or run approach makes exercise accessible and inclusive, and the pledge day on 1st June is a good way of encouraging more practices to sign up and take part."
For more details see the GP parkrun pledge day event and find your nearest parkrun.
"There is some excellent work ongoing to boost recruitment into general practice and as a result we have more GPs in training that ever before. But GPs cannot be trained overnight, and whilst we wait for the next generation of family doctors to enter the workforce, existing GPs and our teams are struggling to manage escalating workloads without enough time or the resources to deal with them.
"Demand for GP services is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity – and when this is compounded by falling GP numbers, it creates a perfect storm that is leading to GPs becoming stressed and burning out, and in many cases leaving NHS general practice far earlier than they might otherwise have done.
"More must be done to keep our hard-working, experienced GPs in the profession for longer – not only are they vital to delivering vital care to over a million patients a day, but they have a huge amount of wisdom to impart to new colleagues.
"We are optimistic about the future of general practice: the financial commitment to primary and community care in the NHS long-term plan in England; the new five-year GP contract which promises that money will get to the front line; and pledges to ensure greater investment in technology are all part of a jigsaw that should help keep the NHS sustainable for the future. But GP numbers, which as this research shows are still falling, cannot be ignored.
"We need see more measures implemented to genuinely tackle soaring workload as a matter of urgency and efforts redoubled to cut red tape that diverts time away from patients, and we need to make the working environment in general practice supportive and sustainable, so that family doctors aren’t forced out of the profession. This would not just be in the best interests of GPs, but the NHS as a whole, and most importantly, our patients."