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Primary care tsar criticises ‘GPs with attitude’

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs are underestimating their ability to lead change in the NHS, and need to step up to the plate to take on greater responsibility for designing services, according to the Department of Health's national director for primary care.

Speaking at a Department of Health conference on clinical leadership in primary care, Professor David Colin-Thome said general practice was ‘the most effective and cost effective' sector of the health service.

But he challenged GPs to do more, claiming that some in the profession were ‘not adequately performing when it comes to being recognised as good leaders'.

He said: ‘Clinicians in primary care often under estimate their leadership skills an influence. Primary care is the biggest success story of the NHS…yet we can do more.

‘High levels of oppositional behaviour imply that confrontation and criticism are valued more than creativity and risk taking.'

Professor Colin-Thome said it was important to acknowledge that general practice was ‘the most loved' part of the NHS, but also be honest about the presence of ‘unwarranted variation, mal distribution and some [GPs] with "attitude"'.

He urged NHS bosses to help create stronger leaders in primary care, by encouraging GPs to create distinct leadership roles for themselves.

He said these could include practitioners who focus on addressing health inequalities, clinical innovators who focus on facilitating ‘increasingly complex care at home', or professional partners charged with taking ‘new approaches in care planning, supporting patient directed budgets and managing care across organisations'.

Alternatively, he said entrepreneurial practitioners could be encouraged to ‘explore business opportunities including expanding social enterprises', leaders of service transformation could help develop multidisciplinary teams and organisations, and champions of clinical quality could use ‘new techniques and methodologies to embrace continuous improvement'.

Professor David Colin-Thome