“Given the nature of future health needs, never have we as a country needed great general practice services more”
NHS England General Practice Forward View, 2016
GP federations are a way for general practices to work together as a single organisation to share responsibility for delivering high quality, patient-focused services responsive to the needs of the local community. Federations are driving change through working at scale to deliver primary care services as well as developing collaboration and innovative new models of care. To facilitate collaboration and reap the benefits of federated working, leadership development interventions are needed to inspire, equip and support primary care professionals to further develop the leadership skills and collaborative ways of working that will drive change across local health and care systems.
In recent years, a number of GP federations have been established within East Lancashire though reported ongoing challenges with embedding and extending collaborative working, identifying a gap in system leadership capability and capacity, and specifically the ability to ‘lead without authority’ and handle ‘challenging conversations.’ There was also a consensus that the federations welcomed support with strategic development to refine their collective vision, values and goals, and develop appropriate systems and processes to deliver innovation and change.
Taking a Collaborative Approach
An education lead from a local CCG, GP federation directors, the NHS North West Leadership Academy (NHS NWLA) and a leadership development provider co-designed an intervention to support senior federation leaders to understand more about the concept of system leadership and the tools and techniques available to develop their skills and implement this approach. Clinical and non-clinical senior leaders in the East Lancashire locality were invited to participate in the two 1.5 day residential programme. During the programme, the participants produced a ‘plan on a page’ summarising their federation’s vision, values and strategic objectives. Participants came away with an enhanced understanding of the context in which they were operating and knowledge of a variety of system leadership tools and techniques for implementing their plan, agile project management and influencing and negotiating methods to support collaboration and transformation.
14 months after completing the programme the NHS NWLA commissioned an external evaluator to evaluate if (and how) their learning had been embedded and applied within the workplace and to capture any impact.
- Increased confidence and energy for improved resilience in their leadership roles
- Direct impact on strategy development and implementation of practical taught elements
- Effective response to recognising and understanding local challenges and developed problem-solving mind-sets to manage such challenges
- Increased collective ownership and collaborative working from locality managers on shared processes and protocols to drive transformation