Wednesday, 23 October 2019 16:03

What has next gen GP ever done for me? Reflections on a year of learning and leadership as a GP

Dr Tim Cooper - previous Next Generation GP leader in Wessex (2018-19), and now GP partner, Clinical Lead for Mental Health at North Hampshire CCG & Clinical Director of Whitewater Loddon PCN - reflects on his first year since CCT as a GP and clinical leader Dr Tim Cooper - previous Next Generation GP leader in Wessex (2018-19), and now GP partner, Clinical Lead for Mental Health at North Hampshire CCG & Clinical Director of Whitewater Loddon PCN - reflects on his first year since CCT as a GP and clinical leader

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how Next Generation GP has helped me develop individually and as a leader. I’m now one year after my CCT and it has been a crazy, hectic, but brilliant year. One of the exercises I learnt with Next Gen, that I often think back to now, was from Oliver Nyumbu: reflecting on our successes and what strengths and resources made them happen, ‘Getting up on the balcony’ and looking back.

Since CCT I’ve become a partner, taken on a clinical lead role for mental health at my CCG, been elected to the board of our local GP out of hours provider, and I’m now the Clinical Director for my primary care network. It feels odd committing this to writing and it makes me feel daunted, we all know imposter syndrome! Thankfully the roles complement each other, and each activity serves the others.

I also hold on to two things that Next Gen taught me:

Firstly, the permission and encouragement to get ‘stuck in’ early on. Hearing from senior leaders you realise that a common characteristic was their interest and ability to question right from the beginning. Why do things happen this way? If we started from scratch would it look like this? For me it was liberating to hear that, yes, you can ask those difficult questions and, no, you don’t have to have been around for years to earn the right to ask!

It’s a skill we all have as GPs, drilling down to the heart of a problem and recognising the myriad factors that affect a patient’s presentation. Working in a complex health and care system is no different. I think that’s why many of us feel able to step up into positions of leadership. We’re leading every day in our clinical work and navigating complexity, but many of us don’t recognise it. It’s our ability to see the bigger picture that helps make the best patient-centred decisions. I joined our local OOH provider after a colleague suggested I might be interested and it has been a great decision. It has given me another lens through which to see primary care and our wider system, and has also shown me how a successful provider works. Being part of a different leadership team has helped me learn by association, just as Next Gen GP is all about experiential learning and finding those ‘golden snitches’ of brilliance to learn from.

The second thing that Next Gen taught me was the power of our voice. We often feel that we are a quiet voice in the wider system. My role as a CD and as a clinical lead at the CCG has shown me that we have a uniquely powerful voice, both as an advocate for patients but also for our wider health and care system. We often sit at the interface between primary, secondary and social care – we all know when the system fails because our patients come to us for solutions.

I often reflect on the words of Steve Chalke, a brilliant and visionary leader for his community on the south bank in London. He told a group of us that ‘frustration is merely vision without form’. We all recognise frustration around us, but what I heard from leaders, such as Clare Gerada when she set up the GP health service, was about the power of channelling that frustration into vision and then action.

My role as a CD has already led to some difficult decisions. I’m very aware of my accountability to patients, my partners, the system and taxpayers. At times it leads to decisions which are challenging, but I recognise the power of my voice to advocate for what our population and our local system needs. That does occasionally mean challenging the status quo and the inevitable questions that brings. But if we’re not willing to advocate for what we believe in then we’re doing both our communities and ourselves a disservice. Doing this alone would be hard, but through Next Gen GP I have met a group of people who support me in my roles and the wider relationships they bring.

To finish with a contribution to the 140 character world, which NHS leaders love so much, I’d sum it up as: "Find your voice, find your interests, find your tribe. Crack on.”

Now if only I could find a cat meme that says that…

Tim