Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Interview

New GP leader Martin Marshall: “We’re definitely heading in the right direction”

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 24 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5586
  1. Gareth Iacobucci, chief reporter
  1. The BMJ
  1. giacobucci{at}

The incoming chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners tells Gareth Iacobucci why he’s optimistic about primary care doctors’ future despite the ongoing pressures

“General practice in crisis” has been a familiar headline in recent years, as unprecedented demand, funding cuts, and workforce pressures prompted fears that the jewel in the NHS’s crown was losing its sparkle.

But Martin Marshall, who in November will succeed Helen Stokes-Lampard as elected chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, believes things are changing for the better.

The academic and inner London GP confesses, “I am an optimist. But it does feel as if the corner is being turned.”

Marshall, the college’s current vice chair for external affairs, notes a landmark commitment in the NHS long term plan1 to invest a greater proportion of spending in primary care.2 Government recognition of the importance of general practice was long overdue, he says.

“We’ve been saying it for decades, but the current leadership in NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care is probably the first in my professional lifetime that has really ‘got it’ and is trying to shift resources into primary care,” he affirms.

“When you look at the £22bn (€25bn; $27bn) investment pledged for the NHS by 2023-24 in the long term plan, £4.5bn has gone on primary and community services. It’s still not enough but it’s a move in the right direction.”

The workload challenge

Marshall is equally thoughtful and forthright when discussing the state of general practice.

He says excessive workload—caused by a combination of high demand, increased complexity, and more paperwork—is the single biggest challenge facing general practice, and one that he will prioritise during his three year tenure.

“To deliver high quality, patient centred care we have to reduce the workload for average GPs. That is …

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