Justin Hayes has been a GP in Lambeth for 26 years. As he puts it, he’s kept his head down seeing patients and running what he hopes is a good practice. He has combined working three and half days a week with childcare commitments (in earlier years), running a weekly parent and toddler group, active leadership in his local church along with music and cycling as leisure activities. Over the years he had had a little involvement in health related committees - one on children’s mental health, the other with the speech and language service.
If I didn’t have anything constructive to say, I should keep quiet
“With both of the committees I had been involved in I don’t think my mandate was clear and although I had a certain amount of confidence it was not enough to really feel I was making a meaningful contribution. I would also sometimes attend meetings about NHS reorganisation plans feeling very cynical and voicing my concerns from the back of the room - though not quite heckling!
The chance to join the primary care development programme came at the right time for me. I was starting to think that if I didn’t have anything constructive to say, I should keep quiet. I was in on the programme more or less from the start and although how much time it would take up was not quite clear from the start it has been worthwhile.
You have a sense of being in control
The main thing is that it has made me much more confident. It’s helped me to develop to contribute usefully to meetings and discussions, helped me to be more succinct, keep on task and not digress. It’s also made me aware of the whole system and how complicated it is – so there’s been a growth in my knowledge. Now I take the point of view that it’s best to be engaged with the process rather than being the victim of the changes. Psychologically if you feel you are more involved and having an influence you feel better than if you’re not. You have a sense of being in control.
The programme has highlighted things I’ve known I ought to change about myself, like trying to be more organised, not trying to take on everything. It’s made me less complacent about personal development. The changes in me are a work in progress. I would also have to underline the importance of the funding that meant we could take time away from our practices to think, develop ideas, learn about management theories and hear from others who have already established federations.
Becoming a federation leader was inevitable
The programme supported the development of the federations in Lambeth. We had nothing set up before this started. We now have three. We participants had a task to talk among ourselves and to other practices about the way things were going in primary care and ideas about working together. I think it was inevitable that by being involved in the setting up, one would become a leader in a federation.
While never having quite enough time to do all the reading and thinking that you wanted, there were many positives to the programme, including spending time with other GPs who run their practices differently to you. I really appreciated discovering other people’s gifts and using those skills and qualities, for example, to decide the best person to attend a particular meeting, and learning from them.
The programme has given me an extra dimension
The one-to-one coaching was really useful for self-awareness, how to approach tasks and helping you to give thinking time the priority it needs. I think the programme has given me an extra dimension to being reflective and some form of ongoing coaching would be very helpful.
There are lots of challenges for primary care but there is real potential to make an impact on patient care. With our perspective we federation directors look more carefully at service specifications and see if they are workable. GPs’ practical viewpoint and on the ground experience, together with the cohesiveness of a federation means together we can say if we think something is good idea and we can support all our practices to deliver services to help address health inequalities.”
Dr Justin Hayes is a partner at the Valley Road Surgery in Streatham and a director of the South West Lambeth GP Federation