It is not an overstatement to say that Dr Watson holds the key to the future of the GP partnership model.
A familiar face on the BMA’s GP Committee, Dr Nigel Watson’s appointment as chair of the Government’s review of the GP partnership model was that rarest of things – a Government decision welcomed by the profession.
For better or worse, the outcome of the review, which is to be submitted by the end of this year, will affect the career of every GP across the country. The stakes have never been higher.
Dr Watson has been given the responsibility to produce recommendations on what the Government can do to ‘reinvigorate’ the partnership model. He was chosen by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens to lead the review – and he says NHS leaders are ‘serious’ about retaining the model.
And they may need to be. A Pulse survey this year revealed that half of GP partners would consider going salaried. In a recent roundtable held by Pulse and the Family Doctor Association, he said that it was ‘no secret’ that certain parts of the Government believed general practice was a ‘cornershop model, and we should be put in the annals of time’. He is determined to produce a report that decisively refutes such a view.
It seems that the drive to upscale will be central to his plans. Dr Watson has been leading attempts in Hampshire to set up a ‘multispecialty community provider’, one of NHS England’s ‘new models of care’ . This is something he wants to focus on in the review. Working at scale, he says, would support individual GPs in a number of ways, including indemnity schemes.
Dr Watson describes his appointment as ‘unexpected’. He says: ‘I still find myself asking “why me?” – I am sure there are many who are better qualified and more able than I am.’
His track record suggests otherwise. Dr Watson has led GPs in the south of England for 14 years as chief executive of Wessex LMCs – routinely described as one of the most effective in England.
And his success in retaining GPs in a region that’s struggling to recruit suggests he has what it takes to reshape the partnership model for the better. Dr Watson spearheaded the GP Supporter programme in Wessex this year, which saw 10 experienced GPs – former partners – recruited into practices for three to four months to provide clinical help and ‘wisdom’. This alleviated the recruitment pressures that have hit the region hard.
Furthermore, Dr Watson has given young GPs the opportunity to become influential GP leaders through the Next Generation GP Leaders programme, bringing the programme to Wessex in the autumn of 2017 where 60 young GPs attended Next Generation events over a six-month period.
His commitment to the future of the profession is clear when he speaks about these young GPs. He says: ‘These will be our future leaders, we need to give them hope and work with them to shape our future.’
More widely, Dr Watson works with health and social care providers across the Hampshire and Isle of Wight sustainability and transformation partnership, to ensure general practice not only has a voice at the table but also gets the additional resources it needs to enable it to survive and thrive.
His dedication to general practice has been royally rewarded with an MBE this year. He says the award was ‘a great honour’ but added that what was more important was ‘the large number of letters and emails I have received, the contents of which have been quite humbling’. The award is a tangible sign of his importance to the profession.
Dedicated to finding a positive way forward for beleaguered GPs
What others say:
‘Leader in new ways of delivering primary care whilst remaining strongly supportive of the current workforce’
Dr Watson is dyslexic and is still amazed he got into medical school