Training after VTS - Go further with a clinicalfellowship

Do you see yourself as a future leader? Then a clinical fellowship could help, says Dr Mark Taubert.

The GP Fellowships in Wales started in 2001, following a publication entitled 'Making and preparing leaders' which explored the role of the doctor as a leader. It called for an effective way of making good leaders and showing potential leaders effective strategies for leading an organisation.

This is the basis of the clinical fellowship.

Who's it for?

Doctors, fresh out of VTS, who see themselves being in charge of 'an organisation' in the future - be it as a partner or at the forefront of a regional or national committee - will find the fellowship programme useful.

The idea is to look closely at the practice you are working in, in an observational role. You are asked to consider that works well, what doesn't and what could be done differently.

What is on offer

In 2004 I read a leaflet handed out at one of our VTS half-day sessions, asking for applications for the next upcoming clinical fellowship. Fellowships were available for eight GPs across Wales who had finished VTS within the past two years. These one-year programmes pay for a postrgraduate course worth up to £2,000. I'm doing the diploma in palliative medicine at Cardiff University.

Structure

A fellow works in a general practice of their choice for 10 sessions a week, part of the time seeing patients, the rest doing degree work, fellowship work or residential modules.

The residential modules occur on a regular basis and are organised across Wales. The course co-ordinator organises various team-building and leadership exercises and events.

Earnings

Fellows earn as much as a GP registrars. The practice has no costs in my being there because my sessions are paid for by the university, so the host GPs benefit.

Understanding leadership

The thought of leading a whole bunch of GPs is a daunting prospect, given my own occasional cynicism towards people at the forefront of the profession.

However, in the short time I have been a GP, I have seen a fair few leaders who have impressed me and who were cut out to do the job. What makes them good, what makes others so lousy?

We have explored these issues in some residential modules.

There are different types of leaders within our group. I have learned a lot from discussions with my fellow fellows, all very different personalities and backgrounds and with their own visions for the future.

Seeing some of them makes me proud to be a GP and makes taking part in this doctor/leadership programme worthwhile.

Fresh concepts

Every time I finish from one of the modules and return to work in my surgery, my head is buzzing with dangerous and tempting new concepts, from Myers-Briggs-ing the partners' personality types at weekly meetings, through transitional leadership models, to thinking-hats and pyramids.

From developing effective presentation skills to becoming a researcher, this programme fine-tunes some of the rough edges we never knew existed.

The GP registrar year is far too packed, far too bundled to cover much of this beyond taster sessions.

The end of the programme

However, due to funding problems, postgraduate assistantships are to be stopped from February 2006 and fellowships from August 2006 in Wales.

The situation varies across the UK. In London, for example, the Deanery closed the senior GP registrar scheme in 2004 but its clinical fellows scheme starts in February 2006. The Oxford deanery still offers senior registrar training.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be on this great course. GP registrars and young GPs all over the UK should feel short-changed. Write to your deaneries and ask for an explanation. Someone, somewhere thinks training GPs for extended leadership roles is not necessary.

- Dr Taubert is a GP registrar in Monmouth, Monmouthshire and winner of the GP Enterprise Award, registrar section, 2005

LEARNING POINTS

What you need to know about the fellowship programme

Clinical fellowships and similar programmes last one year.

In Wales the fellowships were for eight GPs per year who had finished VTS within the past two years.

The programmes pay for a degree worth up to £2,000, such as various diplomas.

A fellow works in a practice for 10 sessions a week, part of the time seeing patients, and devoting the rest to degree work, fellowship work or so-called residential modules.

Fellows earn as much as a GP registrar.

In Wales, due to funding problems fellowships are to be stopped from August 2006.

RESOURCES

www.gpcf.primarycare-wales.org.uk
www.londondeanery.ac.uk
www.oxford-pgmde.co.uk/gp/srs/index.html

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