Chair ‘delighted’ to continue in the role for another year

The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) is pleased to announce Ms Helen Fernandes as chair following our annual general meeting.

Ms Fernandes had been co-chair alongside Dr Matt Kneale, who stood down from DAUK’s executive committee at the AGM.

We would like to express our profound thanks to Dr Kneale for his leadership, dedication, and contribution to DAUK during his time as co-chair.

Ms Fernandes said: “I am delighted to continue on now as Chair of DAUK, for what looks like a busy year ahead.

“I am very grateful for the support of my committee and admin team. Matt will be missed, but I know he is only a phone call away. I expect to call him often.”

Dr Ellen Welch is DAUK’s new vice-chair and Dr Elissa Abi-Raad continues as treasurer.

Dr Lizzie Toberty continues as GP lead, Shonelly Novintan is DAUK’s Learn Not Blame lead, Dr Matt Lee remains sustainability lead, Dr Pushpo Hossain continues as IMG lead and Maya Machesney is the new student lead.

The AGM heard a round-up of some of DAUK’s work and achievements.

Physician associates

DAUK is actively involved in the national discourse around the roles of physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs).

Our committee members have been vocal in the media, raising concerns about the roles and the regulation of PAs and AAs by the General Medical Council (GMC).

More than 2,800 doctors signed a letter from DAUK to the GMC, warning the proposed regulation of PAs and AAs will undermine standards and put patients at risk.

We briefed politicians in the House of Commons and House of Lords on the draft Anaesthesia Associates and Physician Associates Order 2024, the legislation for the regulation of non-doctors by the GMC, as it passed through Parliament.

We responded to the GMC consultation on their regulation, highlighting the widespread concern on the lack of scope and standards in what is being proposing.

Our correspondence with the GMC has been published on the DAUK website and shared with the media.

We have given our support and contributed financially to a legal challenge by Anaesthetists United to the GMC regulation of PAs and AAs.

Anaesthetists United says the distinction is blurred between doctors and non-doctors, and that patients should be able to know the difference.

DAUK will not let up on the issue of PAs and AAs. We firmly believes that the future of the medical profession and the patients it looks after are at risk.

Dr Jenny Vaughan

We were deeply saddened by the death our dearest friend and colleague Dr Jenny Vaughan.

Jenny was a founding member of DAUK, a past chair, and absolutely lived and breathed the Association.

Members paid tribute to her on our Wall of Support on the DAUK website, and there were touching obituaries in the Guardian, the BMJ, and on BBC Radio 4’s Last Word.

We are planning a memorial day for Jenny next year, and more details will be announced in due course.

GP crisis

Our GP committee has been extremely busy highlighting the issues that face general practice.

Dr Ellen Welch’s book, Why Can’t I See My GP?, has been a cornerstone of their work with a copy sent to every MP to help them understand general practice and to make it a key issue this general election.

Dr Welch featured in the Daily Mail, the Sunday Times, i News and the Daily Express, and she was interviewed on Sky News, BBC Radio 5Live and BBC Radio Cumbria – among others.

Her book prompted debate on ITV’s Good Morning Britain about which types of ailments people should see their GP with, and whether children should be taught in schools how to use and access the NHS.

One of the key successes has been the prolific work on social media of Dr Steve Taylor, who produces a wealth of data and statistics on the NHS and general practice.

It’s helped Dr Taylor build an extensive following, including with health journalists, and insert him and DAUK into social media conversations.

GMC

DAUK co-chairs Helen Fernandes and Matt Kneale were invited to join the GMC Annual Symposium, which was held shortly before the release of the new Good Medical Practice.

Ms Fernandes and Dr Kneale have held quarterly meetings with the chair, chief executive and head of education of the GMC.

The meetings have been of a robust nature as we attempt to hold them to task.

To that end, in our regular GMC case in focus on the website Pulse, we highlighted the case of Dr Steven Zaw, a secondary care doctor who was suspended for ‘inadequately supervising’ the PA under his authority.

The article, which focused on PAs and supervision, was Pulse’s most read of the year so far.

NHS Practitioner Health

We highlighted a move by NHS England to immediately stop the funding for hospital doctors referred for help to NHS Practitioner Health. Those who support doctors through Practitioner Health were also told just the week before it was due to be closed.

One of our members, at that meeting, anonymously tipped us off.

We launched a social media campaign and highlighted the NHS England plans in the media and the decision was reversed less than a week later.

Dr Sarah Benn

We launched an online survey asking for the views of our members, healthcare professionals, and the public on the case of Dr Sarah Benn.

Dr Benn, a GP for 32 years, was suspended from the medical register following her participation in peaceful climate protests.

The survey was highlighted by Pulse, and the results are being reviewed and will be published in due course.

We issued a statement that we were ‘shocked and saddened’ by the sanction handed down to Dr Benn following her Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service hearing, which was picked up by the media, including BBC Online.

DAUK’s Dr Steve Taylor, meanwhile, wrote a letter to the Times on the case and the discussions around it, saying that protesting would not affect clinical judgement or trustworthiness.

Climate crisis

We joined Plant-Based Health Professionals UK (PBHP UK) to highlight serious concerns from the medical profession over the Government-backed Let’s Eat Balanced campaign.

Dr Matt Lee, DAUK’s sustainability lead, and Dr Shireen Kassam, director of PBHP UK, have co-written an open letter to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to express their deep concerns at the high level of misinformation within the campaign, and ask for the campaign to be retracted.

The letter was reported in a number of publications including the Independent and openDemocracy.

Chris Packham supported our essay-writing competition for medical students on the subject of biodiversity.

Mr Packham, the broadcaster, environmental activist, and animal welfare campaigner, will guest judge the shortlisted finalists.

NHS data

We collaborated with tech-justice non-profit Foxglove and other groups to challenge the award of the biggest IT contract in the history of the NHS to US tech giant Palantir.

DAUK’s Dr David Nicholl spoke to the Sunday Mirror, describing the £330m seven-year agreement as ‘a poor deal for taxpayers and patients’.

He told our website it had not undergone sufficient public scrutiny.

NHS whistleblowing

DAUK supports the proposal for the Office of the Whistleblower and is working with not for profit organisation Whistleblowers UK to change how society thinks about whistleblowing.

DAUK’s Dr David Nicholl joined politicians, health leaders, and campaigners for a Westminster roundtable organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Whistleblowing.

Dr Nicholl also highlighted our work to protect NHS whistleblowers at the Medical Journalists’ Association’s (MJA) symposium on Building Trust in Health Journalism.

The symposium was supported by DAUK and gave our committee members the chance to hear presentations on a range of issues, and to make contact and build relationships with key health and medical journalists.

Overseas NHS Workers Day

The NHS came together for our fourth annual Overseas NHS Workers Day on Friday 1 March.

Overseas NHS Workers Day is now a firm fixture in the calendar and provides a chance to celebrate the incredible contribution they make to the NHS and the health of our nation.

Social media was full of videos, photos and the stories of our international colleagues, using the hashtag #OverseasNHSWorkersDay.

Trusts displayed flags representing the countries of birth of overseas staff; colleagues wore blue and green, the colours of the day, and some even had an international-themed lunch.

Academic foundation jobs

We sent an open letter to all medical school deans urging them to unite in opposition to changes to the allocation of academic foundation jobs.

We believe UKFPO’s announcement that all Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) applications will now fall under the Preference Information Allocation system posed serious issues.

Medical Student Committee

Our student funding campaign was endorsed by the Medical Schools Council, which wrote to each of the secretary of state for health in the four nations.

The committee responded to the government’s long-term workforce plan with a national survey on the current educational experience of medical students. The results, which showed students struggling for learning opportunities already due to overcrowding, were shared widely on social media. 

The committee supported a student who had missed UKFPO deadline due to difficulties with the platform.

Committee members joined DAUK co-chair Dr Matt Kneale at a meeting with the GMC to talk about their views in the GMC and how they might work together on shared events at universities and explaining the council’s work.

We responded to the UKFPO’s waiting list with statements sharing the frustration of those medical students still to be allocated jobs and those allocated outside of their top choices.

The statements were posted on our website and social media and shared with the media.

We also submitted freedom of information requests to NHS England to understand the true picture. The request was rejected but NHS England should publish data in their next annual report. 

And we have begun preparations for expanding the Medical Student Committee for the next academic year.

Communications and media

DAUK and its committee members regularly contribute to articles and broadcasts, and provide briefings and background material to journalists working on more in-depth pieces.

We are proactive in putting out comment on our website and social media, and sending it direct to journalists.

And we are quick to respond to requests, with someone being available to speak to a journalist in the majority of cases.

We are working hard to build good working relationships with health journalists including though networking at events such as the Medical Journalists’ Association recent symposium.

Our work to oppose the expansion of PA and AA roles has had real cut through and been highlighted in the media, including the BBC OnlineMail Online, the Telegraph and the i newspaper, as well as medical websites and publications.

We broke the threat to the funding of NHS Practitioner Health for hospital doctors through our social media channels and website, which was picked up by reporters and brought about a quick U-turn.

We have had some stunning media coverage for our GP committee, with the members regularly invited to comment in health publications such as GP Online and Pulse Online.

Dr Ellen Welch penned an opinion column in Metro putting the NHS workforce on the election agenda.

Dr Sarah Jacques bravely shared her emotional story with the Telegraph for a feature on general practice that also included contributions from our GP Lead Dr Lizzie Toberty and Dr Welch.

The general election has given us a chance to highlight GP issues.

Dr Steve Taylor, of our GP committee, welcomed the election as a chance to raise the profile of the GP crisis, but told GP Online it must not delay a funding uplift. He also spoke to Pulse for an article examining the under-spending on health since the last election.

Become a member of DAUK and support our work.