Martin Block has been a GP in Lambeth since 2004 after completing general practice training.Although he no longer lives in the borough his family has a long connection with the area. Martin became a federation director in 2015, which he added to his busy career seeing patients and in;GP education. He set up and runs the GP training programme at Imperial College. In his spare time he writes music and sings. He has also begun script writing. Life will soon take a new turn as his first baby is due in December. Here are his thoughts about the primary care development;programme:
The biggest sea change in more than a generation
“It is absolutely a time of change in primary care. To me, the biggest sea change in more than a generation. You can see how it’s happening across the system and why. How it will turn out exactly, I don’t know, but I don’t think we’ve had such a radical period of change as we’ll have for the next five to ten years. We’re seeing much more working at scale, with GP federations, super practices and possibly us working much more closely with hospitals trusts. It’s exciting but intense.
I got involved because it’s a real opportunity to make primary care better. I think about people coming into the profession – how can you make it a really exciting career? As a GP you’re right in someone’s life, on the frontline, in their homes. But at the same time you may want to do teaching, research, or get involved in other clinical areas of expertise. So you could have quite a dynamic career in a bigger team that moves around more, progresses more. In the older career model, with the current pressures, you are more prone to burn out.
Change is inevitable
I want to keep the intimacy of GP practice but mixed with the type of career that younger doctors want. This model of working will bring the best people to work with our patients. Ultimately the patients will be better served because it will be a better system. There is the danger of losing the cosiness of the small practice, but change is inevitable. The cards are all still up in the air and I want to know that when the cards settle I’ve done my bit to use the skills I have to make them fall in the best way.
Real live leadership is happening now
I started the development programme shortly after becoming a federation director and for me it has been so positive. I’ve recognised that one-to-one coaching is an essential part of my working life if I’m going to be effective. I believe it’s made a big difference and is something I want to continue. The masterclasses, for example on change management and conflict situations, have also been extremely useful. I used to think that leadership was something you either had or you didn’t. Now I know there are skills you can learn. I learnt how to put what you’ve been taught into practice. The programme works because there is real live leadership happening now.
It’s been a period of intense growth for me over the last 18 months. Without the programme I wouldn’t have been as effective in the role as a director and I wouldn’t have learnt so much that I can now use in the rest of my career. It’s a foundation stone.
Growth needs space
Of course finding time was a challenge. I only had a finite amount of time to give to the federation and the programme. I took an active role in bidding for the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund (to run an extended appointments service). This was a big priority which meant I did miss some programme sessions. But doing the on the ground leadership stuff is what made the programme valid.
I can feel that we are delivering the extended access service in such a way to give the maximum benefit to Lambeth patients. It’s well utilised which helps to create more capacity in the system, which helps to get a lot more patients seen. And it got us working together. The more we do, the more patients benefit.
I always thought I should do some leadership training but this turned the thinking into actually doing. The programme reinforced the value of carving out time for personal development. It was a reminder that in a demanding job, growth needs space. If you want to lead you have to step back.”
Martin Block is a GP partner at the Clapham Park Group Practice and a director of the South West Lambeth GP Federation