Thank you to the 330 of you who attended the Next Gen GP Unconference 2019. We had a record number of requests to attend and a long waiting list; apologies to those who could not get a ticket.

  • Up Next Simon Stevens
  • Up Next Helen Stokes Lampard
  • Up Next Sir Bruce Keogh and Sarah Jane Marsh

Lessons from the Unconference: What did we learn?


'We can go fast alone, but we can go far together'.
Kat Densham, GP registrar, Birmingham

I have a confession to make: I’ve always hated group work. It’s always seemed frustrating, and so difficult to make different brains and personalities work together. I relish getting stuck into a problem, finding a solution and presenting the finished article - ta-da! Doing it myself is both balm to my control-freak soul, and clearly faster and more efficient than involving others...

It was therefore rather a shock to my system to be part of Robert Varnam's excellent workshop on collaborative leadership at the Unconference.

He pointed out that we have spent a long time being leaders that do things to people, or for people, and that actually we need to be leaders that do things with people.

Working alone might be faster, but ultimately often lacks impact and longevity.

I reflect on the projects I’ve undertaken in our practice since joining three years ago. I’ve audited practice, found ways to improve, and presented my flawless plans to colleagues...and very little of what I’ve developed has made its way into people’s daily practice.

The real crunch point of Robert’s workshop for me was his focus on testing ideas out with others, because “you are not perfect, and neither is your plan”. If we are serious about enacting real and lasting change, we should not be afraid to “borrow others’ brilliance” (thank you, Oliver Nyumbu!).
 
Why do I hang back from sharing my plans with others? It’s mostly fear. I’m afraid...

...that they won’t like the plan.

...that the plan will sound terrible once it’s spoken out loud.

...that they’ll think I’m naive.

...that they’ll have questions I can’t answer.

...that I’ll actually have to do something about this plan now!

 

As Dido Harding and Dany Cotton reminded us so compellingly, we are invited to “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

And so I did just that, sitting on the 20:16 train home with three other GPs, sharing my idea and listening to their suggestions. They gave me some of their creativity, a couple of their contacts, and perhaps most importantly a reminder that I was not alone in wanting to change the world.

 Maybe I should give group work a second chance... 


'We do not need magic to change the world'
Jennie Cox, GP registrar, Somerset

As those following the Next Generation GP twitter feed on Tuesday may be aware, my trip to the Unconference started pretty early. I made what I euphemistically refer to as the “silly o’clock” train from Bristol, coffee in hand, and managed to use the resulting bonus pre-event time to trundle around a few of the sights (after all a Somerset GPST3 has to hit at least a little Tourist Trail on a trip to the Big Smoke!)

 Once I arrived at the Oval, I was as such ready to face whatever else the day might have in store!

I had read Michael Marmot’s “The Health Gap” a few months earlier, and was fascinated by his assessment of economic and health inequalities. You may even have seen my short book review on the NGGP Facebook group and newsletters. As such I went into Dr Laura Neilson’s (@hope_citadel) Keynote session thinking I was on message.

I had read Michael Marmot’s “The Health Gap” a few months earlier, and was fascinated by his assessment of economic and health inequalities. You may even have seen my short book review on the NGGP Facebook group and newsletters. As such I went into Dr Laura Neilson’s (@hope_citadel) Keynote session thinking I was on message.

I was wrong. To paraphrase the immortal words of the Waterboys…

“I saw the crescent; she saw the whole of the moon” 

I am very honoured to have been manning the Twittersphere on behalf of the team, under the guidance of @aaliya_uk. This meant that I was aware of the collective reactions to Laura’s talk in real time.

To witness the power of her words on the crowd as she described her journey from gap year student to the development of Hope Citadel CIC- whilst finishing medical school, then working as a junior doctor, and bringing up her young family- was absolutely awe inspiring.

So many of us go into medicine with the aim ‘to help people’...but here is someone who has taken this to a new level, setting up 10 GP surgeries in a highly deprived area as a medical student, fuelled by a ‘holy anger’ towards the inequalities in her community. It was an incredible example of leadership transcending barriers of structures and seniority. The resulting standing ovation could not have been more well deserved. 

A final word on social media...

I would also like to use this blog to extend my thanks to @Aaliya_UK and the team for giving me the opportunity to help manage the views coming back to us on Twitter during the day.

Unlike some, I am only dipping my toes into the realm of social media and will admit to having been somewhat suspicious of such platforms before now. The lesson I will be taking forwards is that, if we use technology wisely, we can make connections with like-minded individuals.... alongside whom we have a far better chance to change the world.

I left the Oval brimming with ideas and enthusiasm, my phone still merrily bleeping with everyone’s excited reflections. We were encouraged to pledge to an action after the day, and I am well underway with mine already.

Despite completing the Bristol Next Gen GP programme this spring, and more recently becoming involved in arranging a new cohort, I admit I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for with the Unconference. I merely intended to enjoy the experience...but the day surpassed any expectations I had.

I left with one particular sentiment resonating in my ears, which Laura Nielson quoted from Harry Potter: 

"We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves. We have the power to imagine better."


'Roses are red, violets are blue, am I an imposter or am I just like you?'
Vanessa Jessop, GP registrar, Bristol

There’s a fine line between intimidation and inspiration.

‘Heavyweights’ from the leadership world were the order of the day at the Unconference. But their openness in sharing their stories and honest reflections on their journeys, quickly turned any whiff of intimidation into motivation.

 Co-founder Nish Manek opened with the facts: in 2 years 50 Next Gen members have grown to 1350, with 27 programmes and more on the way, and the leadership team has now over 50 Next Genners running this across the country.

'We can go fast alone, but we can go far together'.

Robert Varnam provided help with the 'how' of making change, highlighting the different aspects of leadership: doing things to, for and with people.

Both Robert and Nikki Kanani emphasised the need to prioritise connections, to form a tribe and to pay it forward. This is something all the speakers did, and will no doubt continue to do for Next Generation GP. We had the opportunity to do the same, welcoming selected 6th form pupils, medical students and Foundation Year doctors, and sparking interest in our careers with a workshop entitled 'Why GP?’.

Nish said at the start that the NHS won’t be saved by a policy or a plan, but by people; people who believe in leaving it in a better state than they found it. But as Sir David Haslam suggested, it is analogous to a crying baby: you love it dearly, but sometimes you need a break.

The importance of self-care and proactive resilience was a theme touched upon by several speakers; notably London fire commissioner Dany Cotton. As she steps down after a 32-year career, her determination to continue to change the narrative around female role models and mental health demonstrates a level of multifaceted bravery that is difficult to describe.

Dany’s story was a lesson that our critics may be harsh, but, as executive coach Oliver Nyumbu imparted in his talk ‘Project Me’, we must train our inner critic to be kind; becoming a student of how we ‘operate at optimum’.

The amazingly candid Dido Harding reminded us that as doctors we are paid to make decisions when we are scared, we cannot be brave unless we are afraid, and that sometimes dreams do come true. Dido also remarked that in order to lead we need a positive belief in humanity. 

This came in the form of junior doctor Laura Nielson. Her standing ovation was well deserved, as a remarkable young woman who refuses to accept health inequalities and has embedded herself in a community to heal them. Her message was simple: the time is now; we need not be deterred by the qualifications we do or do not have, but can absorb the brilliance of others and work with them in order to effect change.

 And our ideas ‘must not be left on the beach’, as insightful entrepreneur Tim Guidotti urged in his fascinating interview with Nick Harding. Instead, we must think about how we can shape our dreams and those that reside in the people we work with, and strive to go to bed a little wiser each day.

And our ideas ‘must not be left on the beach’, as insightful entrepreneur Tim Guidotti urged in his fascinating interview with Nick Harding. Instead, we must think about how we can shape our dreams and those that reside in the people we work with, and strive to go to bed a little wiser each day.

All the leaders were exceptional today, in different ways. They were united by a sense of humanity; the need for which has never been greater, as eloquently concluded by Sir David Haslam.
The question is: which leader do I want to be?

What I realised today is that we just need to look in a mirror- because leadership starts with owning our own stories, understanding who we truly are, and leading ourselves first.