The new chair of the Royal College of GPs has criticised family doctors for failing to 'stand up and shout' about public health issues.

Professor Steve Field, who took over last month, called for GPs to take a bigger lead on areas such as smoking, alcohol and obesity.

'We haven't been as assertive as we could have been. It's about acting as a leader in local communities as well as nationally.'

Professor Field said GPs were addressing these issues individually with patients but 'haven't been as focused on the population as a whole'. They needed to put more pressure on primary care trusts and work with nurses and health visitors to tackle the problem, he said.

The RCGP will be working closely with the Faculty of Public Health to convey the public health message.