Article Index

NHS and ME in the UK

Dr Clare Gerada is now the chair of the Royal College of Physicians (UK)—and she spoke about the government NHS reforms and implications for long term conditions such as ME. The RCGP is the voice of 48,000 GPs in the UK, and has just celebrated its 50th birthday. The aim of the reforms is to build bridges and improve the lives of patients, particularly those suffering from chronic disability. She described general practice as the oldest branch of medicine, and as a GP herself, she has seen many changes in general practice and in the NHS over the past 3 years. The aim of the GP (as quoted by her own GP father) should be to give something back to the community, listen, and be there for patients. One million patients are seen in Britain daily by GPs.

General practice is under great strain. There is lack of money and manpower, and it is hard to deliver the standard of care needed from cradle to grave. The whole health service is under pressure too because of the ageing population and increasing demands on services. There are more complex problems with age and this can be time consuming.  What matters most is continuity of care.  The patient also needs to learn to help manage their own condition. There is a need for development of integrated services.

Ideally the GP needs access to a multidisciplinary team. The NHS has had a huge reorganisation, and all existing structures were dismantled. There has been rebuilding with monumental cuts, which has led to exhaustion and demoralisation. GPs have now been relegated to local groups, and healthcare is then bought for these populations.  There are many social changes, and public health is being run by local governments.In relation to ME, very few GPs fully understand the illness, as there are so many illnesses and so much detail to learn all the time. It is an illness that needs specialist care, as is far too complex and time consuming for the average GP.  However the RCGP is trying to improve things by providing online education. 500 GPs have downloaded the latest training module which should give greater understanding. The new NHS act will hopefully gradually improve things in the UK. Bridge building between the GP and patient is needed, and acknowledgement of the illness is slowly improving.