Working as an RCGP Clinical Adviser: Part 2 of 2
Network Locum (now Lantum)'s Dr David Mummery writes the second part in his two-part series about his experiences in primary care research...
Being a representative of the RCGP has been a fascinating, rewarding, and informative experience. I have been able to pick and choose from the multitude of activities that the RCGP and CIRC (Clinical Innovation and Research Centre) are involved with. One particular example that sparked my interest was a NICE consultation on multi-morbidity, an ever increasing medical and social issue gripping public health. At the workshop, a huge range of people including consultants, nurses, social workers, representatives from charities etc, discussed the various issues associated with multi-morbidity, debating what should be included in guidelines. Attending these meetings brought home to me the pivotal role of the GP and primary care team in most of these issues.
I believe GPs have realistic ideas of what works in healthcare and know when things are useful or a waste of time; simply by seeing so many patients with clinical problems, we have "evolved" to become expert in knowing what is practical and impractical when it comes to medical interventions. The meetings often include representatives from "single issue" charities or support groups who contribute many valuable ideas but don't always have a handle on what's practical, realistic or possible for GPs to do in short consultations. I felt a voice of primary care was desperately needed at some of these meetings to tell other members what it is really like out there in general practice and what interventions are going to be most valuable. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and debates at the workshops I attended and felt very proud to represent the RCGP. It is essential for general practice and the RCGP to be involved in drawing up guidelines and formulation of research that impact us on the ground in primary care.
As well as attending workshops and meetings, Clinical Advisers are asked to respond and comment on consultations (eg. draft NICE guidelines). Sometimes these consultations are dizzyingly long and complicated, (you may be asked to peruse a forty five page document on vitamin D deficiency - good bedtime reading!); however these consultations are always worthwhile looking at, even if you completely disagree with what is being said. The good thing is that being a Clinical Adviser means that you're in a position to disagree and add constructive criticism. If you disagree or think the consultation is too long and complicated (often!) you can say this in your comments and send it back to them. Realistically, not many people are going to read a two hundred page document on gastro-oesophageal reflux, so often my comments were to suggest simplification and summaries of the guidelines to make them digestible (no pun intended) for a primary care audience. Again, I found looking, reading, and responding to these consultations rewarding and interesting, and a place where I felt a GP viewpoint was not only desirable but essential.
As I have said, I have felt very proud representing the RCGP when I have been asked to and I would wholeheartedly encourage other GPs who are interested to get involved with CIRC. There are almost certainly going to be topics that interest you, and it is a rare chance to meet other people from different fields to discuss topics. The CIRC and Clinical Adviser team are fantastic and it is somewhere you can make a difference by articulating a voice for general practice on a multitude of issues.
Dr David Mummery is a Network Locum (now Lantum) Community Representative and has special interests in HIV and Diabetes.
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