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Moving on from your practice

Dr Tom Humphries shares his tale of a partnership split and how he moved on

Dr Tom Humphries shares his tale of a partnership split and how he moved on

When serious conflicts arise, they are never simple. There is rarely a right and a wrong. In my old practice it was simply a clash of strong personalities.

Prolonged tensions are a miserable time for a practice, and each person involved is likely to take that feeling home with them. Everyone longs for a resolution, but no simple answers are found. An external counsellor may help. Advice may be sought from the LMC and the BMA.

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When the split happens

When everyone is finally exhausted by all of this, the inevitable is presented and there is a partnership split.

When it came for me, I had a brief euphoria followed by a crash. Leaving the conflict behind is good but there is so much uncertainty for the future. So much has been lost. Feelings of helplessness and worthlessness are all around. Starting again seems like an impossible task.

In fact, within a couple of days I had been contacted by the PCT and arranged an interview with one of the senior managers, who pointed me to my first significant piece of work, developing chronic disease management in a local practice.

Several local colleagues approached me to join them in practice but I wasn't keen to re-enter a partnership straight away.

Perhaps the most significant point came when one of my previous partners encouraged me to get legal advice of my own rather than relying on that from the practice solicitor. I approached a major medical specialist firm of solicitors who were marvellous. You should always use a medicolegal practice rather than your local solicitor, as the workings of general practice are unique.

Good legal advice, along with good grace from my former partners (and maintaining that is worth a lot), started to sort out the contractual and financial arrangements.

Moving on, however, was not that easy. Still, support came from family (despite the pressures this new situation put them under), and from friends, colleagues (see ‘Help after a split', overleaf) and my GP (another benefit of not being registered with your own practice). In fact, this is a great opportunity when you can at last see it.

Examine your options

As a GP you have many skills although they are not always clearly defined. This is a chance to decide again where you want to head. Options include going back to general practice, developing medical interests such as management or pursuing interests outside of medicine.

I enjoyed a couple of weeks as a mountaineering instructor, dredging up qualifications from a long time ago.

Doing new things also develops new skills. I was approached by my PCT to develop diabetes services. I learned a lot about presentational skills and service management, which has proved most useful in developing more recent work.

It was two years after I left before I saw the job that really appealed to me – developing a physical healthcare team in a mental health hospital. The skills gained in the intervening time, such as presentational skills, chronic disease management organisation skills, as well as a broader view of the NHS, helped secure this job.

Now I lead the GP unit in a mental health team. I am still diabetes clinical lead for the PCT. I do QOF visits for the PCT. Most recently I have taken on GP appraisal.

A new chapter

For the first couple of years it was painful every time I thought about the practice. Now it's just a hint of sadness. I still have a number of patients and colleagues who remain friends from that time. I now have more time for myself. I rarely bring the stress of work home. I can say I have moved on.

I would never have sought a partnership split and would probably never have got around to leaving. The new opportunities have provided an interest to my medical career that I am glad I didn't miss.

Dr Tom Humphries is a GP in Rampton High-Security Hospital and diabetes lead for Derbyshire PCT


Sources of help Sources of help after a split Sources of help after a split

A solicitor
As the person leaving the practice, the practice solicitor no longer represents your interests. You must get your own solicitor. Mine said, ‘I may be expensive, but I work fast'. She did and she was excellent. Solicitors are there to tell you what your practice agreement actually says and means. (Make sure you have a practice agreement, as every word in it counts.)

The practice accountant
They will almost invariably work for both you and your former practice. This is necessary to tie up your financial arrangements. You may wish to appoint your own accountant. I didn't find this necessary – indeed, our accountant was a very useful go-between.

Personal support
• Your family – invaluable but remember they are going through it too.
• Your friends – invaluable also.
• Your GP – they will probably understand what you are going through better than most. After all, wouldn't you be honoured if a colleague came to you for help?
• Your PCT may give you access to other professionals, such as clinical psychologists to help you find a way forwards

Dr Tom Humphries: Your practice accountant can be a major source of help Dr Tom Humphries: Your practice accountant can be a major source of help

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