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The waiting game

How taking on a failing partnership turned into a positive experience

Letter from Dr Sumit Sharma, Gosport

Mahatma Gandhi once said 'We must become the change we want to see in the world'.

Today, I would like to share with you the change in my life and the subsequent joy it has brought me. 

After qualifying in December 2013, I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a locum GP. I enjoyed the fact that I earned good money and was able to enjoy my free time whenever I wanted. Everything in my career was moving along just fine until one memorable day.

It was 16 of January 2015 and the fate of the Brockhurst Medical Centre was about to be sealed. The challenges facing all practices at that time was about to claim another victim. The pain of the threat of closure was palpable amongst the retiring GP, staff and their families, but most importantly amongst the patients. The tears of one of the receptionists moved me so deeply that my life changed forever in that moment. Despite my original doubts about taking a permanent job at the practice, I decided there and then to take a leap of faith and I proposed a partnership, with the mission of keeping the spirit of the practice alive and protecting its patients and team. And so, I became an official partner at the centre knowing in a few months I would be managing it single-handedly. Overnight, I became a saviour in the eyes of the staff and the patients.

Of course, these 'Superman' feelings did not last long.  By early 2016, I had become the sole partner of the practice and the challenges began in earnest. During my first week, four members of staff, including one of the doctors and the practice manager, resigned and the pressures from the CCG and NHS England mounted. Day after day, I encountered new mountains to climb and over the following months I often felt like giving up.  

The truth was I did not know anything about the management of a medical practice. The only thing I had was a deep-rooted passion to look after others. From the outset, we decided to introduce small changes and measure every step in an attempt to build a system following the 'bottom up' approach. In time, our persistent efforts paid off, leading to the evolution of a successful and self-sustaining practice. 

The result was a system that functions independently of any changes within the practice team. This system not only gave us autonomy and independence, but also offered long-term resilience. Staff who came to work on a temporary basis enjoyed their time so much they applied to continue working there on a long-term basis. As we progressed, we attracted more and more well-qualified and experienced doctors and key staff. Such was our success, that in 2015 and 2016, the practice was named runner up for 'GP practice of the year' at the Best of Health Awards.

Now, as I write this article, not only have I got back my personal time and financial freedom, but I am also surrounded by the people who gave me my true purpose in life. And as a direct result, I can now make a difference to the lives of over 5,000 patients and their families.

And so, my journey leads me to now, with the realisation that what matters most to me as a doctor is people. It has inspired me further to take on bigger challenges and contribute on a wider scale. Now, my goal is to make a significant difference to the lives of thousands of patients by inspiring and empowering young and newly qualified GPs in the UK to be the driving force behind their own general practices. In the long run, I believe this will lead to happier, healthier lives for all of us.

I have shared my story today in order to connect with you and your inner sense of values. Today we may not have the best of everything but we can make the best of everything we have.

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Readers' comments (10)

  • Dr Sharma deserves the utmost respect for his remarkable achievement. Sadly, I doubt he will get it from NHSE as they would have been hoping that the practice would collapse and the list could be dispersed, thereby saving the premises cost.

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  • you have our respect! continue to be bold!

    - anonymous salaried!

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  • Azeem Majeed

    Thanks. A very interesting article.

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  • Well done.

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  • "From the outset, we decided to introduce small changes and measure every step in an attempt to build a system following the 'bottom up' approach."

    what did you do?

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  • more info please

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  • Vinci Ho

    ''If my heart believes this can be done, even though it is as hard as moving a mountain into sea to make land , there will always be a date of success.
    If my heart does not believe , even though it is as easy as turning my palm to break a twig , there is never a timeline of getting a result.''

    Sun Yat-Sen 1918

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  • How did you do it? Thank you

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  • More detail would help you achieve your goal of helping and inspiring other young and future GPs.

    Quotes from Sun Yat Sen by Vinci Ho are relevant but not enough!

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  • Dear Friends
    Thank you for your comments. A few of you have asked me questions about our methods. Let me share with you the top 3 interventions that helped us to achieve 80% of our results.
    1 – Working on the business rather than in the business. Developing business has been central to the process, involving testing new methods and working through those marginal gains.
    2 – Our team sets the goals and directs the path to achieving our objectives. Some of the best ideas come from admin and reception staff. At the end of the day, everybody in our team owns these changes and works with passion towards these goals.
    3. – Growth matters to our business. In our view, our business is dependent upon the number of patients and providing them with excellent care on time. We concentrate our efforts on growing the list and improving our patient care.
    Do connect with me and email me at If you know someone who might benefit from our learning and advice, please let them know. Let us inspire each other.

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