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"What royal colleges can do": An interview with Professor Martin Marshall

Professor Martin Marshall is the Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in the United Kingdom, the largest of the medical royal colleges with over 50,000 members. Martin is also a doctor in East London and a researcher at University College London. We spoke to him about Ride for their Lives and what doctors can do to tackle climate change…

Royal College of General Practitioners

The Royal College of General Practitioners acknowledges the climate crisis and the catastrophic effect on human health of not acting decisively and urgently. “As for so many of the royal colleges, our members want us to be involved,” says Martin. “There is a lot of passion amongst clinicians for climate action. We live in our communities and can see the ways in which our patients are impacted. As respected institutions, it is important we step up and speak out.”

In his role as chair, Martin has overseen huge changes during the last few years. There are a number of ways that the college is supporting their members to get active. One of those is the Greener Practise initiative, organised with the NUS, which is a series of practical interventions that practices can engage with to boost sustainability. The Royal College of General Practitioners is also working with the NHS on their Net Zero carbon initiative and integrating sustainability into the curriculum. They also promote this free online toolkit, which lists over one hundred actions that can improve the environmental sustainability and quality of any general practice as well as saving money.

“We are now doing more than we were two years ago,” Martin tells us. “But we are still not doing enough. More members are engaged, more members are interested, and more members are supporting our work than ever before. But, on this issue, we can never do enough.”

Ride for their Lives

Martin participated in a cycle ride with Ride for their Lives, alongside thirty other health leaders including Presidents, Vice Presidents, Chairs, Directors, and Advisors from a number of organisations and other royal colleges.

After the ride, Martin participated in a panel discussion with other presidents of the royal medicine colleges, chaired by Dr Fiona Godlee, the former editor of the British Medical Journal.