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In the hot seat: Dr Peter A Sloane

Newly appointed ICGP Network of Establishing GPs (NEGs) Programme Director Dr Peter A Sloane shares with Charlotte Hudson his plans for the future of the Network

The NEGs Programme, set up in 2004, identifies the needs of GPs fresh out of training and provides them with advice and support. On 1 February, Dr Sloane took over the reins from outgoing NEGs Director Dr Mary Glancy after a three-month handover period, giving him the opportunity to learn from and take advantage of the expertise, knowledge and experience of Dr Glancy.

Dr Sloane says: “I hope that over the next 18 months to two years we can move away from the idea that NEGs is a separate group within the ICGP towards being more focused on the service that we deliver, largely to establishing members of College. Although trainees automatically become members of NEGs on entering fourth year, I hope to increase awareness.”

Key issues for new GPs

The Network provides establishing GPs with advice and support on issues such as finding work, different types of work (eg, locum work, sessional work, assistantship) and access to continuing medical education (CME).

In Ireland, there is a system whereby most GPs will be a member of a small CME group, which meets monthly to discuss ongoing educational and support needs. Access into these groups can be quite challenging for people who are starting out in College and the NEGs Programme provides support.

The Network also advises establishing GPs on how to set up in practice, whether through partnership or setting up on their own, and helps members appreciate the mechanisms and implications of access and non-access to a General Medical Services (GMS) contract. They also advise on contracts of employment. They are currently developing connections between retiring and establishing members in relation to topics such as practice succession.

“There are a number of issues that we advise on which not only affect establishing members but all GPs in general,” Dr Sloane explains. “There will be a significant degree of uncertainty within general practice over the coming years – GPs have experienced an overall reduction in incomes, there are higher expectations and demands from patients, and the government in Ireland is intending to roll out universal health insurance, which will have a significant impact on general practice.”

The government in Ireland is intending to roll out universal health insurance, which will have a significant impact on general practice

Focusing on the needs of establishing members

NEGs runs local regional meetings twice a year for members delivered by regional representatives. The meetings are based on topics of interest to establishing GPs, and are a forum through which information is delivered.

“My vision is for these meetings to develop over the next 12 to 18 months so that they provide a much more robust vehicle for establishing members to feed back their issues and concerns into College, where action can be taken to address them,” says Dr Sloane.

A valued and popular element of the NEGs Programme is the access that members have to an online discussion forum

Dr Sloane is running a workshop session at the ICGP AGM in May, which will give establishing members the opportunity to express any issues they have with the ICGP.

A valued and popular element of the NEGs Programme is the access that members have to an online discussion forum, with threads relating to both clinical and non-clinical issues. It provides a peer to peer resource for NEGs members.

Clinical queries include such conundrums as where to refer patients with unusual symptomology, and seeking opinions on management options. Non-clinical threads include the recent Medical Council elections, financial aspects of practice, and Emergency Department waiting times.

Mentor network

The ICGP aims to establish a “mentor network” that doctors will be able to access if they need personal advice and support in relation to complex and difficult issues in practice. Look out for updates on this in the coming year.

Getting involved

One of the objectives of the Network is to work to overcome barriers to younger GPs participating in the College and encourage them to get involved. Dr Sloane says: “Establishing members will, after a relatively short time in practice, become core members of the ICGP. We believe that the College is enriched and strengthened by the talent and energy of establishing GPs. Through establishing GPs getting involved and having their voices heard, College will continue to recognise concerns and ensure that services and supports are in place to address them.”

We believe that the College is enriched and strengthened by the talent and energy of establishing GPs
Dr Sloane, along with Dr Rita Doyle, past President of the ICGP, is developing connections between retiring and establishing members in relation to topics such as practice succession. He explains how it is important that a GP who is looking to retire knows how to go about discussing succession with establishing GPs who may be thinking about partnership or the idea of succession.

Tips from Dr Sloane:

  • Enjoy your job – Being a GP and an active member of the ICGP is an opportunity to have a lifelong involvement in a professional supportive organisation that is in many ways like an extended family.
  • Think strategically about changes that are happening within general practice and within healthcare in Ireland.
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