Helen Stokes Lampard, Chair RCGP

Helen Stokes Lampard

“It was a fair fight for the position. Four candidates. I won.”  We expect Roy Lilley’s chats to be rather more combative than fireside, but that was a fairly typical response from Helen.

Not only chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, but one day a week partner in General Practice in Lichfield, And in her spare time, Governor of the Birmingham Women’s NHS Trust.

Where did it start? A penchant for science, led by role model who was dad, in Swansea who taught science. Excited by Dentistry, through another role model who she stayed with one long vacation. She made the job sound very enticing. (Funny how a lot of role models and influencers are passionate about their work…). Salutary first underachieving at A levels was a useful life lesson, and St Georges beckoned after the second attempt. “Why not Welsh medical school?” “Family would have loved it, but as a teenager, I wanted to be far away!” House jobs through a swap, back in Wales.  Then a fun serendipitous turn of events….a penchant for research led to a PhD (so a proper Doctor!), which changed gynaecological screening in the UK. This led to joining an unusual (but shouldn’t be?) training scheme.  Half GP trainee, half academic research.  Then later in Birmingham, added in learning to teach soon.

I only give all the background because it does inform the view of the person, and how they have got there.  Although this is always my personal opinion, you can watch the whole interview free, clicking on here for the NHS Managers.net YouTube channel.  But I really got Helen’s passion, drive, intelligence and vision. Motto of the RCGP was repeated a few times. “Scientific knowledge applied with compassion”. Anyone can trot out platitudes, but I got the feeling she not only meant it, she lived it.

As ever, we learnt as much about Mr Lilley’s foibles as the chatee…”Why women’s hospital…we don’t have men’s….”  “What about getting me an old geezer GP – I’m not seeing a woman!”.  Then a bit more banter level “You fell out with the builders at the new office, 30 Euston Square?” “And we won the dispute”. I was really enjoying the instant replies.  NHS was castigated as a non family friendly employer.  Crèche spaces as rare as rocking horse droppings.  This moved us nicely onto that nights publication of the RCGP manifesto – out long before the political parties have managed theirs for the election.

The theme and main thrust of the evening was around is General Practice about to wither away? A simplified 6 part plan to save the NHS loomed over the audience (embargoed until midnight that night, but we kept getting sight of it as Roy continued to be naughty!).

(You can see the Manifesto here)

The election should not just be about Brexit.  The entire population needs healthcare. And everyone has a story, opinion and bias about “our NHS”. Here’s my notes on the 6 steps to save the NHS.

  1. Fund primary care so the GP 5 year forward view can be delivered
  2. Support euro and overseas employees, healthcare and allied professions.
  3. Extend GP training to 4 years from 3. They are “expert medical generalists”, and the job is more complex than ever. Cheaper in long term.
  4. 5000 more GPS by 2020
  5. A new return to work initiative for nurses, mental health professionals and pharmacists to join the multi faceted teams needed for evolving general practices
  6. Sort out the spiraling costs of GP indemnity insurance – yes, if mistakes happen, sort it, but not ambulance chasing.

See the whole here, but I like the simplifying.

70% of NHS costs are people.  We cannot just make the savings asked for from efficiency of the 30%.

What else for the future?  More remote consultations? Maybe it has to be “good enough” for some situations? I do feel one size doesn’t fit all.  And we all have different needs for different conditions  ( notwithstanding maggots in the scrotum, which Roy quoted twice, from Mormon a west end musical…don’t ask…). Maybe Skype, or apps like Babylon, or Face Time, or just the mobile phone, or near patient testing can help some people sometimes? Best quote of the night ? Roy: “There’s no silver bullet here, but maybe there is silver buckshot”. Primary Care Home is being successful in some places.  Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) occasionally left GPS out of the solution – until hospitals told some of the local planners not to be daft. We do need to grow the wider GP team.  We do need the holistic approach of Primary led, secondary fixers and social care support to become fully dovetailed and smoothly transitioned. There need to be more new ways of working, and GPs tend to be active early adopters.  It feels like Helens vision around recruiting, retaining and returning of all the allied healthcare professional teams will help drive it all forward rather than over a cliff.

Some other great ideas about social prescribing, the tripod of social care, primary and secondary care, GP in A & E, other folk appropriate to the patient need (paramedic in out of hours triage, for example).

It was an evening full of hard hitting practical do-able ideas that were not scary or mad or just talk.  It feels like we just need the powers of persuasion to make the talk stop and the action start.  Helen Stokes Lampard is highly persuasive innovative and very hard to ignore.

Whoever wins the election, please be aware she will come knocking…and won’t take no for an answer.

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