IDF shows its caring side

New chief aims for inclusivity

The new president of the Indep­endent Doctors Federation (IDF) has unveiled plans for the group to better serve private consultants and GPs who have suffered prejudice.

Dr Phil Batty

Dr Phil Batty said although the IDF was an inclusive organisation, he believed it could do better. 

Giving his first speech in his new role, he told members at the group’s AGM: ‘We are sometimes prone to mistakes, leading some members to feel they do not “belong” in the IDF family or at particular events’. 

He aims to tackle this by having representation from a dedicated diversity committee on the IDF’s executive. 

Dr Batty, a consultant in sports and exercise medicine, said this was not for some political correctness gesture, but to consider members with particular needs, and was entirely consistent with the objects of the IDF’s articles of association. 

He told the meeting in London: ‘We live in challenging times wrestling with social concerns, commonly termed “woke culture”. I have not had to overcome prejudice based on the colour of my skin, gender, sexual orientation, faith or disability. 

‘I don’t know how that feels. None of us should feel dehumanised or ashamed of who we are. I pay tribute to those of you that have overcome and continue to fight prejudice. I could not practise or provide care to my patients without you. 

‘And my life is richer because of you. I am proud to be your colleague and to serve as your president. I will continue to listen to your issues and hope that, by the end of my term, you can say that I was inclusive and that I spoke for you. Indeed, I hope to hand this presidential medal to one of you in three years’ time.’

Dr Batty said the Oxford English Dictionary defined the word ‘woke’ as ‘being alert to injustice in society, especially racism’. He embraced a lot of ‘woke culture’, not because of ‘virtue signalling’, but because it was simply the right thing to do. 

But he added that while he accepted that everyone needed to be held accountable, he deplored ‘the cruelty and viciousness of “cancel culture” and struggle with humourless militants’.

He said it was vital for the IDF to engage with new and younger GPs and consultants working in the independent sector for long-term sustainability and growth.

‘The independent sector is changing, with PMIs directing patient pathways, CMA [Com­petition and Markets Authority]directives and a newer employed model from providers. We need to continue constructive engagement and challenge many stakeholders.’ 

After the last couple of years, it was more important than ever to follow the timeless founding principles of the IDF ‘to support each other, have fun and grow together’. 

Dr Batty announced the events team would be expanded and appealed for imaginative ideas for events where doctors could enjoy each other’s company and support one another.

Responsible Officer praised

IDF president Dr Phil Batty thanked the group’s Responsible Officer Dr Alex Harkins and her team who serve as a designated body for more 600 of its 1,450 members for revalidation. 

Dr Batty called it a vital service for members from a wide range of practice and he reflected that it was rare but sad when members met a threshold to be referred to the GMC. 

This was always in the strictest of confidence and difficult for the member – and Dr Harkins. 

While the IDF would always fulfil its obligations, it would try to do this with ‘as much kindness as possible’, signposting members in difficulty to support.

Tributes for the former IDF boss

Dr Neil Haughton

Tributes have been paid to private GP Dr Neil Haughton, who has left his post as president of the Independent Doctors Federation (IDF) after a three-year term.

New president Dr Phil Batty told the group’s AGM he could not praise his predecessor enough for his work through incredibly difficult times. 

‘It was not the fun gig he anticipated, but he leaves his term with the IDF in a much stronger and healthier position in spite of the pandemic.’

Founding member Dr Stuart Sanders told Dr Haughton: ‘Con­gratulations on a wonderful term as president. Considering that you have been president though difficult times, you really have come up trumps.’ 

Despite the pandemic, his leadership was ‘a remarkable success’, with the IDF now more financially secure.

‘Ask for cut in indemnity fee’

Dr Sean Preston

Many consultants with falling incomes during the worst of Covid-19 missed out on a fee reduction from their medical defence bodies because they forgot to ask.

Dr Sean Preston, chairman of the IDF’s specialist committee, said a survey by the organisation found 25% of those questioned found access to their usual place of work was made more difficult because NHS patients were using beds and services for time-critical clinical care.

Writing in his annual report to the Federation’s journal IDF News, he reported: ‘Interestingly, most of those members did not contact their medical indemnity provider to discuss a fee reduction, but those who did were largely successful in doing so. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’

PMIs lobbied to improve pay

QUALITY SERVICE: The federation’s specialist committee agreed to lobby insurers for better fees by demonstrating members’ excellent quality

The IDF’s specialist committee has agreed ‘almost unilaterally’ to lobby private medical insurers ‘for appropriate renumeration for timely, high-quality care’.

Members have achieved some success after working in groups with insurers to help them describe excellence and quality.

Specialist committee chairman Dr Sean Preston told the AGM that specialists should be rewarded for excellence in quality and also a good governance code.

Consultants’ representatives were able to describe what quality was and the insurers could follow – but it should not be the other way round. 

He thanked Anne Coyne for her work over the year supporting members who had got into trouble with insurance companies. She had helped colleagues ‘negotiate difficult paths’.

Dr Preston described the pandemic as very tough for members in the specialists committee. 

‘Some of us lost our jobs overnight, some of us lost our income overnight, some of us lost our place of work as patients came in from outside the private sector to have their essential operations investigations in there.’

Like him, some were redeployed and doctors were helped by the IDF to face the new digital world of Zoom. 

Very quick negotiations were needed and he said he took his hat off to Bupa in particular because they were extremely good at explaining to their members how consultants were delivering a new online service.

The committee was very clear that remuneration had to be maintained throughout that time, and, as a result, ‘most but not all of the PMIs followed’. 

But he added: ‘Surprisingly, quite  a lot of the Vitality rewards had significantly dipped, so they had to have a slap on their wrist for their behaviour during the pandemic because they were not as good at remunerating our members for their Zoom calls. That now is getting slightly better, thankfully.’

PROMS are way to prove quality

The IDF is now represented on the Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations (FIPO) by Mr Christian Barnick. 

Dr Glyn Towlerton, a consultant in spinal and pain medicine at Fortius Clinic, London, has taken over as the new chairman of the specialist committee, following completion of Dr Preston’s term.

The IDF is aiming to play a strong part in creating new patient reported outcome measures (PROMS).

Specialist committee chairman Dr Sean Preston said in his annual written report that they were an important factor in demonstrating high-quality care, ‘but those we have are very few and far between’.

Private doctors should now rise to the opportunity emerging from patients being more willing to pay for their treatment, according to IDF president Dr Neil Haughton.

Demand has outstripped the ability of many independent GPs and consultants to keep up, he told the meeting.

He believed the IDF’s most significant achievement in recent times had been in surviving as a membership organisation during a global pandemic.

It had done its very best with ‘brilliant virtual education and social events’.

Private GP Dr Haughton thanked members of the IDF, which was founded on social networking, for their loyalty. He reported numbers joining had increased at the same rate they did in the years before Covid-19.

‘I recently got an email from a member of two years expressing gratitude to the IDF and stating that in decades of membership of royal colleges and other organisations, they had received more support from the IDF than all the rest put together.’

Help offered to become ‘green’

Dr Shaima Villait

Doctors have been exhorted to take simple measures in their medical practices to help reduce carbon emissions.

IDF GP committee chairman Dr Shaima Villait said in her annual written report that members were recently asked what they were doing in their workplace to help.

She said the IDF would provide more support to members who wanted further information and advice on making their practices greener.

Dr Villait wrote: ‘We cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions. The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change called action on climate change the “greatest opportunity for public health in the 21st century”.’