Dr Robert Varnam is a GP in inner-city Manchester and former head of policy at – and co-founder of – the RCGP Centre for Commissioning.
Dr Varnam says the past 12 months have been ‘absolutely packed’, but he has particularly enjoyed helping his CCG colleagues spot new opportunities to improve care.
But the centre has been controversial – particularly as it accepted thousands of pounds of Department of Health funding while opposing the thrust of the Government’s reforms.
Dr Varnam is also known for his work as clinical lead for primary care and commissioning at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, but was also a member of the Government’s NHS Future Forum that conducted the ‘listening exercise’ on the health bill.
With his Future Forum hat on, he cites a report about integration as a highlight, admitting he was ‘somewhat surprised’ the recommendations were accepted in full by the Government.
‘It was gratifying to see this listening exercise having such an impact on policy for the NHS,’ he says.
‘I think we made some pretty bold statements about shifting focus from hospitals to the community and putting a more joined-up patient experience at the heart of all policies for funding, leadership, competition and partnerships in the NHS.’
Over the next few months he will be leading a programme across NHS Midlands and East, working with GP practices to improve medication safety.
He will also continue to work with the Department of Health and the NHS Commissioning Board to improve integration in the NHS.
‘I’d love to see us working in closer collaboration with district nurses, health visitors, social workers and colleagues in hospital,’ he says.
‘We’ll all need a lot of courage, and our CCGs will need the confidence to re-orient power – but I think there are enough people up for that for me to be very hopeful.’