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Be brave in the face of change



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