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Prof Paul Worley – Rural Health Commissioner for Australia

In a really interesting development for rural health internationally, Australia has appointed its first Rural Health Commissioner.

Charged with the responsibility of overseeing and driving a wide range of activities around supporting ‘rural generalism’ the post offers a chance to provide more co-ordinated leadership across domains, regions and disciplines to make rural health strategy more cohesive in Australia.

Professor Paul Worley has been appointed as the first Rural Health Commissioner and this move has been widely welcomed across the rural health community.  He brings an impressive portfolio of experience to the post, including in clinical, academic, educational and strategic development aspects of rural health.  You can watch Dr David Gillespie MP announce the post, and Prof Worley outline some of his visions for the future (at 5min 55s), in the video below.

Twitter and other social networks – including the WONCA Working Party on Rural Health international email list – have been buzzing with positivity about the new post, and it is likely that this approach might pave the way for similar developments in other countries.

In Scotland, we are watching developments with interest.  Rural medicine and health services are of significant importance in Scotland’s National Health Service – 98% of Scotland’s land mass is rural, and 18% of Scotland’s population live in a rural area, with many more flocking to rural areas during holidays.  And yet despite considerable aspects of medical care being delivered by GPs and primary care teams, within community hospitals, A&E units and facilities outwith the usual remit of GPs, there continues to be relatively little in the way of co-ordinated clinical governance and strategic unity to link rural and isolated practitioners together.  These services provided by rural GPs remain considered to be on the ‘fringes’ of general medical practice.  Therefore the opportunities created by appointing an experienced individual to provide leadership, stimulate innovation and inspire positive approaches, are sorely needed in areas other than Australia.

Having met Paul at the WONCA World Rural Health conference in Cairns this year, I’m delighted to hear this news and inspired to think that this is a situation to watch closely.  I have little doubt that we will be reflecting that Scotland could benefit from a similar approach in the near future.

Well done Australia, and all the folks involved in making this happen.  These are exciting times.

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Students present Bright Ideas for Rural Practice

This year, the Rural GP Association of Scotland has once again run its student conference scholarship programme.  This is a significant investment for RGPAS, which uses money raised into its Educational Trust fund to support these scholarships.  The scholarships offer heavily-subsidised tickets to enable undergraduate students in the UK to attend and participate in the annual RGPAS conference.

To apply, students were asked to submit a 60 second sound or video clip explaining their Bright Idea for Rural Practice.  We are delighted to feature the winning entries below.

A number of these will be selected for PechaKucha-style presentation at our conference in November.  You can read more about the scholarships here, and also a great write-up of last year’s conference by one of the scholarship holders then, Catherine Lawrence from Hull & York Medical School.

There is still time to sign up to the conference, which takes place from 2-4 November 2017 in Inverness.  £130 for GPs or £65 for trainees gets you two-and-a-half days of quality CPD, along with a conference dinner (and wine).  It’s a great way to catch up with like-minded colleagues, and hear updates on clinical and non-clinical topics that are relevant to rural practice in Scotland.

Well done to all our scholarship winners.  We look forward to meeting you in Inverness!

Rohan Bald (Glasgow): Tackling Loneliness

Emma Bean (Glasgow 5th Year): Drones

Josephine Bellhouse (Glasgow): Improving Use of Communication Technology

Katherine Cox (Glasgow 4th Year): Developing Videoconferencing Peer Support

David Gibson (Glasgow): Awareness of Rural Medicine as a Career

Haiyang Hu (Glasgow): Access to Mental Health Services

Saskia Loysen (Glasgow): Increasing the use of Telemedicine (and pyjama bottoms)

Eloise Miller (Glasgow): Develop Rural Medicine Intercalated Degrees

Danielle Parsons (Aberdeen 4th Year): a Rural Medical School for Scotland

Gregor Stark (Glasgow 5th Year): Rural Research Consortium

Rosslyn Waite (Dundee): Improving Connectivity

Hannah Webb (Glasgow 2nd Year): Access to Sexual Health Services

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Podcast from @fakethom and @RuralGPScot highlights #ruralLGBTQ work in #ruralGP

Back in March, the Rural GP Association of Scotland (RGPAS) launched a range of guidance designed to make rural practice in Scotland more accessible to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBTQ+) patients.

At the annual RGPAS Conference last year, held in Inverness, we were delighted to welcome Dr Thom O’Neill to talk about LGBTQ+ inequalities in rural areas, and some of the practical ways that as GPs we can reduce barriers to healthcare.

Thom’s presentation stimulated a lot of discussion, and led to a project whereby he worked with RGPAS to develop factsheets, posters and other materials to help rural GP practices ensure that their services are welcoming to LGBTQ+ patients – especially younger patients.

You can find out more about these resources at: www.ruralgp.scot/lgbtq-plus.

We are aware that since then a number of GP practices have had discussions in their teams about how to make their health services more LGBTQ+ accessible.  We’ve also had a number of international enquiries about this work – including from Canada, New Zealand and Australia – who have been keen to use this work to increase awareness.

Thom has also been asked to adapt the factsheets for secondary care use in some parts of Scotland too.  So, as expected, the theme seems to have resonated with a wide number of clinicians and service managers.

Thom and David recently caught up to discuss how these guidelines came about, and to explore some of the themes of why LGBTQ+ patients seem to face specific inequalities of access to health care – and how rural practice has some unique opportunities to improve this.  We hope to have Thom back to this year’s RGPAS Conference (2-4 November, once again in Inverness – details soon) for an update on what how this work has been developing.

You can listen to the podcast here:

In the podcast above, we make reference to the work of Alex Bertie about recording his experience of seeking help and assistance with gender dysphoria.  Alex’s videos make for some insightful and compelling viewing, but this one is specifically about his thoughts about the GP consultation – and the difference that a more supportive and informed consultation can make particularly at a challenging and difficult time.

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Highland innovations in eHealth

Thanks to RGPAS member Dr Richard Weekes for highlighting some fantastic work going on in NHS Highland to innovate eHealth applications aimed at improving access to healthcare in rural settings.

Here’s an introductory video showcasing some of the projects…

…an STV news item about the PILLCAM project in Ullapool to provide easy access to endoscopy facilities – using some very novel technology…

… and more about bringing endoscopy to rural communities…

… and the RAPID project to overcome connectivity challenges in rural Scotland…

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RRH Guide to Getting your work Published

One of the sessions at #ruralwonca was delivered by some of the team at the Journal for Remote & Rural Health.  I was really sorry to miss it, due to presenting in another session, but my tweeted request to make the advice available online was answered quickly and the presentation is now available – see below.

The journal team are keen to encourage and motivate rural healthcare professionals to share their research, and seem genuinely interested in helping budding writers to put pen-to-paper or finger-to-keyboard.

There is a lot of great innovation and problem-solving going on in rural practice.  Rural healthcare professionals tend to know their communities well, are used to dealing with limited resources, and some of the best examples of teamwork are to be found in rural settings.  However ‘being academic does not come easy to everyone, and the process of writing up evaluation and research can sometimes feel tedious and time-consuming.

However, it is now easier than ever to find interested journals, and there seems to be a drive to make the steps to getting work published more accessible.

Watch the presentation below for the RRH team’s top tips on getting your research out to a wider audience.  You can find the guidelines for authors available here.

Also, on the theme of research, here’s a great project that aims to enable rural doctors to develop their research activity through pragmatic and direct support.  Delivered by the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University in Newfoundland, it’s called the ‘6 for 6’ programme.  Click here for more details or watch the video below.

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AProf Bruce Chater on Dr MacLeod and #ruralwonca

Today RuralGP.com highlighted the tribute speech given by Associate Prof Bruce Chater to the life and work of Dr John MacLeod of Lochmaddy in Scotland.

I was delighted to catch up with Prof Chater after his speech, to ask him more about Dr MacLeod’s work with Rural WONCA, how the WONCA Working Party for Rural Practice is progressing, and also for some advice to younger rural doctors on how to effect change in their own communities.

You can listen to the recording below…

 

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The legend of Dr John MacLeod remembered at #ruralwonca

Today’s #ruralwonca programme includes a keynote delivered by Associate Professor Bruce Chater: the Dr John MacLeod Oration.

Dr MacLeod was a legend in the world of WONCA and an inspirational rural GP.  I regret that I never had the opportunity to meet him; my own career in rural practice was just starting when he died and whilst a student experience in the Hebrides (Stornoway) was an inspiring part of my own interest in rural practice,  my travels didn’t take me to Lochmaddy.  I was running the RuralGP.com site at the time of his death, however, and you can read more about Dr MacLeod in the obituary, eulogy and tribute that were published at the time by Dr James Douglas and Dr John Wynn-Jones.

His legacy in the WONCA World Working Party on Rural Practice is evident, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from Prof Chater’s perspective in his keynote today.

Dr Sarah Chalmers

In the last few days I also met Sarah Chalmers.  When Sarah was a medical student, she experienced an elective with Dr MacLeod and I was delighted to be able to ask her more about her experience in this podcast.  Coincidentally, she had arranged another elective which had fallen through, and it was a chance conversation at a student event with Prof Chater which led to him emailing Dr MacLeod and thus the elective was set up in Lochmaddy instead!

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Protective personality traits for LICs

Assoc Professor Diann Eley

Today I attended a session at #ruralwonca which was delivered by Associate Professor Diann Eley from the University of Queensland on the role of personality traits on student experience of Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships.

Diann has gained considerable experience in this area, and specifically on how best to support and mentor students effectively whilst encouraging them to reflect on their own personalities – and how that impacts on their clinical decision-making.

I was delighted that Diann gave me a few minutes of her time after her presentation to discuss this in more detail, particularly as this work is highly relevant to the development of LICs in Scotland.

You can listen to our discussion here:

 

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