How a federation is helping its GPs develop leadership skills

Recognising the need for strong GP leadership in the current climate, Suffolk GP Federation recently launched an advanced leadership development programme. Dr Akash Karki, who took part in the programme, explains what the scheme involved.

Dr Akash Karki
Dr Akash Karki

In rapidly evolving general practice, where mergers, ‘super partnerships’ and integrated care organisations are quickly starting to appear, it is vital that primary care systems have the necessary calibre of competent GP leaders to help facilitate change.

Only by working in closer collaboration will surgeries be able to ensure they are safeguarding not just the best interests of their patients, but those of their staff and the health of GPs themselves.

In Suffolk – as in other part of the country – our leaders have been largely drawn from the same pool of senior GPs. But with many now retiring or facing ‘burn out’ it has left something of a vacuum, with very few younger doctors stepping forward to fill the void.

Earlier this year, Suffolk GP Federation commissioned an advanced leadership development programme for a group of 13 established and experienced GPs largely aged in their 30s.

Developing future leaders

Using money received as part of our Prime Minister’s GP Access Fund seven-day service, called GP+, the aim was to develop a pool of future leaders to help take general practice forward in the county over the next two to five years.

Believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, the three two-day modules were wide ranging in their content and included talks from Dr Ian McShane, former NHSE national lead for long-term conditions.

Delegates were able to learn more about the NHS in the context of the wider public sector and within national and local politics, while other topics under discussion included the future of general practice, the rise of the ‘super practice’ and the main financial, regulatory and legal challenges facing GPs.

Time was also spent exploring attendees’ own leadership styles, looking at personality traits and ways of learning to help them communicate, motivate, influence, negotiate and strengthen relationships.

There was also a two-day visit to the Bromley-by-Bow Centre in Tower Hamlets. Part charity, part GP surgery, their approach to health focusses primarily on the non-medical aspects of well-being – good homes, good jobs and good human relationships. The tour also included an inspiring morning with Sir Sam Everington, one of the doctors at the practice and chair of Tower Hamlets CCG.

Results of the programme

The results of the programme have already been very positive and it provided a great opportunity to network with like-minded individuals in a similar position who all face the same barriers and levels of frustration when trying to lead any positive change.

Several attendees have already decided to step forward for leadership roles, including myself as clinical leader for Suffolk’s GP+ service, which provides extended hours and weekend GP appointments and Dr Nick Rayner as executive board member for the Suffolk GP Federation itself.

The next advanced leadership development programme will run in November, helping Suffolk to find younger leaders who have the enthusiasm and skills to create general practice that is fit for the challenges of the 21st Century. The course runs alongside Leading the Way – an initiative for newly qualified doctors introduced to support GP recruitment in Suffolk and provide a clear career path and future progression for those who decide to stay in the county.

  • Dr Akash Karki is a GP locum in Suffolk
  • Suffolk GP Federation is a community interest company which was formed in 2013. It is owned by 61 GP practices and aims to support the development of local primary care and the delivery of improved services for patients in a community setting.

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