This is my first blog as Chair of the PCSG. I took over the role from Richard Stevens who has been carefully guiding the organisation through a time of accelerated change in the NHS. The membership, committee, and I owe him and the outgoing Secretary, Helen Griffiths, and Treasurer, John Galloway, an enormous debt of gratitude. They and the management team behind them had worked to maintain the organisation, expand the membership, and raise the profile of the PCSG. The new Secretary, Patricia Macnair, Treasurer, Ian Allwood, and myself are aware that we must build on this foundation.
The PCSG has a voice on the national stage; we are the voice of Primary Care Gastroenterology. Among our membership we have a wealth of experience in every field of gastroenterology and have involvement in a wide range of projects: increasing awareness and diagnosis of upper and lower GI cancers, considering the impact of publicity around the potential risks of long-term PPIs use, participating in the WHO campaign to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030, tackling the problem of iron-deficiency anaemia, and increasing awareness of inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, and lactose intolerance. The role of the faecal microbiome in underpinning a wide number of conditions and the impact that nutrition, exercise, antibiotics, and stress can have on the richness of the bacteria that coexist in our guts is an exciting area of research – the dramatic impact that this can have on our physical and mental wellbeing is emerging rapidly.
All of this is happening in the context of dramatic organisational change, growing demands on limited resources and a drive to involve, inform and empower patients. The strain on an NHS designed in an era before the internet existed is clear. I started my GP training nearly twenty years ago and my role and workload is very different now. A phrase that I hear from specialist nurse colleagues is a desire to operate “at the top of their license”. I became a GP to help support patients and their families over the course of their lives, whilst continuing to learn and develop my skills, and this is something I believe that all those who enter primary care should aspire to.
Increasing workload pressures and a system not designed for the current shift of work from secondary to primary care has understandably led to a significant number of GPs leaving the NHS, becoming resistant to taking on new work, becoming burnt-out and demotivated. The PCSG must join with those involved in developing a new model for primary care where GPs become leaders of teams who manage long-term conditions proactively, and support the design of innovative pathways to investigate and treat patients with gastrointestinal conditions in primary care. This cannot, however, be done in isolation, we need to work in partnership with other national and international organisations to achieve this.
I look forward to representing the views of the membership, and promoting the role of primary care in all areas of gastroenterology.