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There seems to be a gaping hole in GP training when it comes to medical politics. Many may argue that this isn’t essential for becoming a GP, but I would strongly insist that it is. Whether a newly qualified GP becomes freelance, or takes a partnership, the future of General Practice is uncertain and frightening, and more than ever, new GPs need to understand where the problems lie before we can begin to mend them.
Our political structure is poorly understood by young GPs - when I was training, I had never heard of the GPC. It didn’t seem relevant or necessary, because neither was I taught about the issues that GPs were currently facing. This, in itself, is an injustice to those fresh, optimistic young doctors who, if fully informed, could plough their energy into ensuring a safer and more stable future for themselves.
If trainees don’t understand the structure of the GPC, BMA and LMCs, and how they work together, how can they begin to comprehend what the Sessional Subcommittee does? But first they need to be informed of the importance of sessional representation. Many newly qualified GPs are avoiding partnership – in uncertain times, the risk is just too great. This means that most will take salaried jobs, or become self-employed from the outset. But do they realise that we are so poorly underrepresented and supported?
Sessionals are good at rallying together and ensuring we have the resources we need, in terms of educational and moral support, but if we don’t have our voices heard at the upper levels of decision making, our situation will not improve. And if our trainees don’t understand that we even have a problem, or a multitude of them, why would they feel obliged or motivated to get involved?
So how do we change this? The root is in education; the RCGP curriculum touches on politics and leadership in its ‘GP in the wider professional environment’ section, however emphasis is put on local processes and managing a surgery and resources. And in reality, little time is spent even on these most basic of issues, with trainees concentrating on the clinical knowledge required to get through the dreaded CSA exam.
Giving more time to the importance of understanding political structures within medicine, both at medical school, and later during vocational training would be a good start. Committees should be targeting students and trainees – LMCs should be encouraged to include representatives from these groups, and our newsletter and updates could be distributed via LMCs and VTS groups. And let’s not forget the use of social media – in a time when word spreads very quickly via Twitter and Facebook, perhaps this could be the key to campaigning to our junior colleagues.
Dr Rebecca Jones is the sessional representative for the South East Coast