Just before I completed my training as a GP the 2012 Health and Social Care Act was passed. I had a sinking feeling that general practice wasn’t quite going to be what I thought it was. Up until that time I had been concentrating on passing my exams and assessments and not really taken much of an interest in medico-politics. At times I felt like there was little hope of stability and security in primary care.
Perhaps now, with the emergence of GP Survival, a group that aims to support and represent grassroots GPs working in NHS primary care, there is a reason to be hopeful (read news story). The group was conceived initially as a social media group, due to the frustration at the apparent failure of organisations that claim to represent GPs and defend us from the threats of systematic underinvestment, ill conceived policy, and over regulation.
Members of the group, acting independently as it was forming, organised a petition to health secretary Jeremy Hunt about his “New Deal” (remember that?). The thousands of people contributing to that has since been dwarfed by subsequent petitions, organised by others, calling for a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Hunt. Both these initiatives show how well social media can be harnessed to try to effect change. We are all more connected these days, if we choose to be.
As I write there are over 3,000 members of the GP Survival online group. The numbers grow daily. But the Facebook group is not the be all and end all, the intention has always been to create a not-for-profit, democratic organisation representing GPs, to consistently promote general practice and challenge both media and politicians when they deride GPs, whilst supporting members working on the frontline. They hope to draw attention to the current crisis in general practice in the UK, to identify the causes of this crisis and campaign for realistic solutions. They also aim to address the areas of workload, funding, appropriate usage of general practice, promotion of general practice and the support of a skilled GP workforce.
Once the transitional team has developed the constitution and set up GP Survival as an organisation in its own right I’ll be joining to take part in electing its first committee proper. I think their aims might have an outside chance of ensuring the survival of British general practice and perhaps help GPs survive in their jobs.
If general practice is to avoid its own migrant crisis and hold on to GPs that are retiring early then groups like GP Survival are essential in providing hope for the future.
Declarations of Interest
I am a member and moderator of the GP Survival Facebook group. I am a member of an online group, providing advice and support to the interim committee.