Working life: Why I chose... NHS leadership
Dr Penny Newman explains how she combines general practice with a senior management role in the NHS
Name Dr Penny Newman
Title Director of service integration, NHS Improving Quality, and salaried GP
Location Colchester, and Ipswich
I trained in public health (mainly commissioning) in the mid 1990s and then retrained as a GP in about 2000. I´m currently a salaried GP at the Barrack Lane Medical Centre in Ipswich. Over my career I have built on my general practice and commissioning experience with leadership development and most recently worked at Midlands and East SHA and the NHS Leadership Academy.
Due to the reforms my portfolio has just changed and at the time of writing, I´m in my first week as director of service integration at Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust as well as supporting the delivery of the new CCG development programmes for NHS Improving Quality.
It’s really helpful to have both clinical and management training so I can see things from both a patient and population perspective. There are many others like me who are doubly qualified in public health and general practice.
Having a leadership role and wide portfolio allows me be creative and strategic, as well as have a high degree of autonomy, but I really value being intimately involved with peoples´ lives and making a difference as a GP. It is a huge privilege and an honour.
I didn´t always want to be a doctor, but I´m curious, love learning, care about people and I like solving problems - the combination of what I do is a great fit.
One of the big advantages of a portfolio career like mine has to be variety. Over the last two years I´ve worked on three main areas - one of which focused on women doctors´ careers. Through that I´ve met many amazing and inspiring women. Another was on the sustainability of GP leadership which involved research on GPs’ workload, new models of primary care and the role of sessional GPs. I have also developed a new training in consultation skills ‘health coaching’, which we are just rolling out across the East of England.
I´ve been lucky with my portfolio career to work on things that are close to my heart and very satisfying to achieve. All the jobs I´ve done are stretching and demanding and I´m always growing. Sometimes it’s a risk to jump in and take on a role outside your comfort zone but I am never bored.
The other thing with a portfolio is that you are always fresh. It can also mean you may see things that others don´t because you´re not embedded and you can bring in ideas from your different roles. It´s much easier to be entrepreneurial and creative if you are ‘on the boundary’.
In terms of work-life balance, I have three small(-ish) children and have been able to work at home a lot which helps, especially as I often have to work weekends and evenings.
The challenges of a portfolio career really involve making sure the parts of your portfolio fit together and are complementary. You also need to have understanding bosses.. I´ve been very lucky in that respect. At the SHA I worked for Dr Paul Zollinger Read a former GP who now works for BUPA who trusted me and let me get on. You need to choose your projects carefully, take opportunities and risks and perhaps work in your own time to get started as well as network like crazy. If you can find a good coach that is invaluable. You need great self-discipline and to be able to handle your own IT - everything from teleconferencing to getting the most out of your phone.
You have to be passionate about what you are doing and be well-networked for support. You also need to be driven and autonomous. You need to be able to communicate well with your practice in order to make things work for them too.
I am not sure I could go back to working five days a week nine to five - maybe if the job was something I really cared about and if I worked for somebody who understands that it is our passions that drive us to create the extraordinary, not being told what to do. As I love my job working long hours is just part of it.