Source : http://www.rcgp.org.uk/

After two weeks of travels and an eight-hour time difference, I’m pleased to be back in the UK – and just in time for the start of the darker evenings and colder weather it would seem!

I’ve been getting back into the swing with lots of catch-up meetings with the likes of NHS England, NHS Improvement and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and, of course, we had the Budget on Monday.

As we expected, there was nothing specific about general practice, although there were welcome positive pledges made for mental health and social care.

We would normally have been very vocal about the Budget, but instead we are holding out for the Prime Minister’s Long-Term Plan for the NHS- which promises an extra £20bn a year over the next five years – and are doing a lot of work behind the scenes with the Government, NHS England and others to make sure general practice is appropriately resourced.

English Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, is saying repeatedly that ‘general practice is the bedrock of the NHS’, so we are keen to ensure that this rhetoric is turned into action and, crucially, that general practice gets the investment we so desperately need.

Another big story this week was around the MMR vaccine after Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, warned the public not to listen to anti-vaccine messages.

I couldn’t agree with her more. In media interviews, I went as far as to say that anti-vaccine campaigners are doing harm to our children and society, and that we’re now seeing the direct impact their false claims are having on communities up and down the country.

Only in May, we had another major outbreak of measles, which is ludicrous considering how close we were to completely eradicating it.

The problem is that most anti-vaccine campaigners are spreading their messages via social media, which can be hard to regulate.

I know you are doing some great work to reassure parents so please keep spreading the word about the importance of vaccines like MMR and educating patients on why immunisation is so important. I wrote a piece in the Guardian a little while ago about this, which might be of interest.

Elsewhere this week, I met with a wonderful group of Sri Lankan GPs who are currently being hosted by the RCGP Midland Faculty, which also happens to be my home Faculty (pictured).

It was really enlightening to hear of their challenges in getting appropriate overseas experience, despite having higher medical degrees in addition to professional GP qualifications. It really reinforces the importance of the College’s work to get general practice on the specialist register.

I also attended the fascinating Varma Lecture at my old medical school, St George’s in London, this week.

The talk was given by Lord Professor Robert Winston, Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London, and asked the question – Are we sowing the seed for the destruction of the human?

It was wonderful to be back on campus at my ‘alma mater’ and the lecture was a really fascinating and rather disturbing review of eugenics and euthanasia over the centuries. It then moved into the era of genetic manipulation and made us reflect on the risks versus benefits of the new gene cutting and gene editing technologies that have emerged in recent years.

It was a creative tour de force as Lord Winston used art, powerful images and music to illustrate his points, and gave me a lot to reflect on and a bit of reading up to do!

Before I sign off, I was delighted to have been invited to the Daily Mirror’s Pride of Britain Awards ceremony this week – a hugely humbling event with some truly remarkable people at the heart of it.

I had been asked to help judge the entries earlier this year and it was a lovely and inspiring experience, but I think the fact that I was the only NHS representative on the panel also says a lot about the role of the GP and the esteem in which we are held in our communities.

Until next time,

Helen