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The names who will define GPs’ future

‘This beauty contest is an embarrassment.’ Such was the sceptical reaction of one GP to our call for nominations for this year’s Pulse Power 50 list – and while such stinging criticism might seem a little unwarranted, the sentiment is not unique.

One GP who did take part in the nomination process pointedly made only one suggestion, ‘the unknown GP’. His citation? ‘The person quietly and consistently offering excellent care to his or her practice’s patients while other GPs are establishing national careers and profiles.’

As Copperfield reminds us in his scathing attack on ‘sloganeering hyperbole’ this month, GPs are a fiercely independent-minded bunch. They can’t stand self-aggrandisement. They instinctively distrust the great and the good. And they are automatically, atavistically allergic to anyone who pops up on any kind of ‘power list’.

And yet, like it or not, influence matters and we make no apology for this being the fourth year running that Pulse has published a list of the 50 GPs and 20 non-GPs who wield the most influence in general practice. Compiled this year from more than 500 nominations – submitted by many senior figures in the profession but also, for the first time, grassroots readers – we publish the list not to glorify the movers and shakers, but to offer a unique snapshot of those who will shape general practice over the coming years.

This year, the list reveals a profession very much in a state of flux. A wide-ranging renegotiation of the GP contract – or perhaps even a new one – is set to dominate the news agenda into 2014 and so, for the first time, it is the GPC chair rather than the RCGP chair who fills the number one spot. 

In fact, with Dr Chaand Nagpaul taking over from Dr Laurence Buckman, and Dr Maureen Baker about to step into Professor Clare Gerada’s shoes, plus a new chief inspector of general practice and emerging figures at NHS England, it’s all change at the top.

But it is further down the list that a fuller sense of the profession’s changing priorities becomes apparent.

With some important exceptions, CCG leaders feature less frequently than in previous years – perhaps because GP commissioning feels increasingly like a minority sport. Instead, our panel singled out GPs making waves in more core areas – GP training, clinical research, dealing with burnout.

It is a more ethnically diverse list with greater female representation than last year’s, although there is a way to go before it looks like the profession as a whole. And it is a young list. Innovative and ambitious GPs such as Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, Dr Kartik Modha, Dr Charlotte Jones and Dr Sara Khan are making their names and building general practice a future in very different fields.

It is of course a hugely subjective process, and we had to leave out many worthy nominees – most worthy of all, perhaps, that unknown GP. It is indeed ordinary GPs, working tirelessly for their patients in surgeries up and down the country, upon whom the reputation of general practice rests. 

A necessarily selective and far from definitive list, then. But as a guide to the changing fortunes of the profession – and the people who for better or worse will have a large say in its fate over the next 12 months – it is hopefully a starting point.