Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Thinking outside the NHS

Today I spent 2 hours learning. I attended a local event, the Bassetlaw Community and Voluntary Sector Forum. The room was full of people who run or volunteer for local charities, who provide a range of services for others and who look beyond their own lives on a daily basis.

The main speaker was excellent. Enthusiastic about the future, despite funding concerns, and stressing the importance of focusing on the passion behind the charity. 'Don't lose that original passion, focus on what you can deliver within your budget, and remember that when the funding stops, the thinking starts.'

I see a lot of patients who would benefit from a number of the services evident in the room. I found myself asking how often I consider whether I should signpost to the voluntary sector. I'm a GP commissioner, have been in the area for 10 years, and yet the answer is that I rarely look beyond NHS Services unless there is a clear pathway such as the local hospice or teenage drop in services. Why is this? Am I unusual? Probably not. Why would a patient with moderate mental health symptoms benefit more from a medical counselling model rather than contact and support with a local charity? How many elderly isolated patients are in contact with befriending schemes in the area?

I came away with two actions, discussed and agreed with those present. First, we need to increase awareness amongst clinicians. At the moment we have an alphabetical directory of local organisations. But we see patients with problems, with needs. I pledged to work with those present to develop a problem based directory, so that clinicians and patients can easily identify organisations who can help them with their needs or condition.

We also need to harness the innovation in the room. We have a lot of contact with the sector locally, but there were so many ideas in the room, so much awareness of service gaps for patients and opportunities for efficiency, that we must make it easier for charities to approach us.

I hope today has made me a better GP for my patients, and a better commissioner.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Better than a day at work?

It had been a good weekend. In London with my wife to celebrate our
anniversary. Excellent restaurants, minimal shopping (an achievement)
and a much needed break. Assessment Day was on the Monday, round the
corner from the hotel and overlooking the grounds of Buckingham
Palace. This Durham boy still gets excited by London, and I wasn’t
going to let the looming assessment spoil the trip. I’d done the
numeracy and literacy tests, completed the surveys and quite
looked forward to the friendly chat about the Chair role.

I was half an hour early. Completely misjudged the 5 minutes walk
from the hotel (it looked a long way on the map, must get used to
everything being so crowded in London). Couldn’t appear too keen
so I spent a while looking for a coffee shop before giving up and checking
in. Everyone else was already there. Six of us, and I was pleased to
see some friendly faces - GPs and managers applying for Chair or
Accountable Officer roles.

                  ‘This is better than a day at work.’

If I’d assumed this was going to be a relaxing day I was wrong. I
can’t go into the detail of the day (asked not to) but I can reassure
people that it felt like a robust assessment rather than a
developmental day. Both GPs and managers, regardless of future role,
had the same process. By 4pm my hand ached from writing (how often do
we do that now?) and I felt I’d dealt with a year’s worth of CCG
challenges in 7 hours. I’m sure my partners in the practice wouldn’t view
that as a day’s work, but to me it counted.

So what was the point of the day? These are responsible roles, both
in terms of patient safety and finance. It is essential that patients
are assured that there is a process to assess competency, particularly
when CCGs are based on a membership model and local selection.  I wonder
if many will be told they are not likely to be ready for the roles.

The feedback a few days later was unnervingly accurate – more detailed
than the Top Leaders’ feedback. At least my development needs for
this year’s PDP are clear...