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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Be brave in the face of change

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Last week I attended a conference aimed at GPs and Practice Managers, organized by Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire LMC. It was titled ‘Pursuing innovation and opportunity at a time of change and uncertainty’ and we were presented with some brilliant examples of innovation within general practice from all around the country.

I understand that those who have worked in healthcare for several years have fatigue from all the change; I can only imagine how tiresome it must be. However, it’s clear this isn’t going to stop. And a key aspect of being a GP in 2013 seems to me to be the ability to adapt and be resilient, despite whatever changes a Government or the health service throws at us in a service with increasing expectations but decreasing funding.

I often explain to colleagues and friends that all the doom and gloom surrounding general practice is very tiring for those of us who have many years ahead in the profession. I can’t retire. I don’t plan to move abroad. And I love General Practice too much to consider an alternative path within medicine. Which means I’m stuck, and have to make the best of what I have.

The conference last week was a breath of fresh air amongst the cloud of negativity our profession has engulfed itself in. Dr Jonathan Steel, a GP in Gloucestershire, and senior clinical consultant to PwC talked about how GPs could be a part of integrated care. Helen Parker, who is Director of Corporate Development at Your Health Partnership and Senior Fellow at the Nuffield Trust gave an insightful overview about a possible future of general practice, discussing super partnerships such as Your Health; Networks and Federations and multi practice models such as the Hurley Group in London.

We were also shown some unique examples from across the country of how GPs are tackling the changing healthcare environment in various forms. From a large practice model in Whitstable, who have shown cost savings of 38-50% by having in-house cardiology and diabetic services; to a Limited company in North Essex with 41 practices as shareholders who are hoping to secure contracts such as phlebotomy and urgent care, over large organizations such as Virgin and Care UK (eager to snoop in on services traditionally offered by GPs.)

The overall message was that we GPs need to change, innovate and move forward to survive. And we need to move fast. The talks and examples given were inspirational, especially for GPs like me at the start of a career in general practice. My worry is - will those GPs close to retirement, but ultimately with more power than us newbies, want to get stuck in and embrace new opportunities, especially on a background of change fatigue? If we have to move fast - how many of us will be able to do this unless our seniors are pro-active and supportive? There are excellent examples of senior GPs who have led innovation countrywide. But my worries are valid and stem from scanning the delegate list and only seeing 4 GPs from my locality commissioning group of 26 practices. Without a crystal ball we have to wait and see what organizations are going to support change and what leaders will emerge.  Fellow GPs, watch this space.



Dr Sara Khan is a GP in Hertfordshire and edits the MWF’s magazine, Medical Woman. She is also involved in her local CCG and LMC. You can tweet her @DrSaraK

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  • Sara Khan writes "that we GPs need to change, innovate and move forward to survive"

    Isn't the problem that there is too much change?..and even that driven by poltical motives than clinical need?

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  • Dr Sara Khan qualified 2006. Don't you just love it when the still green behind the ears talk about change.

    Try 30 years of changes in GP and see then if you are still as keen.

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  • I'm real sorry Sara but I don't think we need to embrace all the shit thrown at us by this government to survive. That is walking into their hands. I think we should get much more political and have strength in unity and learn how to say a collective no.

    The empires and federations you describe are bad for GPs and bad for patients. They are only beneficial to the small numbers of GPs who are the directors. The rest of us will end up being salaried serfs with little influence.

    If the younger generation want to make a difference to their working conditions they must engage politically and not subscribe to this type of business model which happens to be endorsed by our college also.

    As for being relatively recently qualified, I think that has no relevance. We need the new generation to engage with the real issues and it's better than burying your head in the sand.

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  • Sara Khan definitely knows what side her bread is buttered

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  • I cannot help but think that opportunity is poor word to use to describe a situation where, after embracing and managing massive change with innovation for reduced funding, the best you can hope for is to maintain a position similar to where you started. The only opportunity related to these changes was to shift the blame for delivering the un-deliverable from the sec of state to us.

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  • The model of general practice has to adapt to survive the changes that are being thrown at us. Like many, I am sick at the endless repetitious change and am looking to the day I can retire from NHS. A collective No rarely appears, however useful it would be. I agree with Sara that for general practice to thrive in this culture there needs to be enthusiasm and drive to take things forward.

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