Ben was CEO of Nene CCG for 8 yrs. He was a Director of an acute trust and has run national improvement programmes. He is a founding director and Principal Consultant of Ockham Healthcare, which he describes as ‘a platform for change’.

GPs will envision the future of General practice not the CCGs nor NHS England

Many of not most GP practices are too small to survive. But there is no single way to solve this problem. GPs need to apply their imagination to how they achieve viability not rely upon NHS England or their local CCG to produce the solutions.

Some people you meet in life you immediately take to. One of these is Dr Johnny McMahon, the GP Chair of NHS Cannock Chair CCG. I first met Johnny in 2007, and was impressed then by his understanding of general practice, his insight into the needs of the future, and his ability to say it like it is. 8 years on nothing has changed.

Johnny is clear that the problem general practice has is fundamentally one of scale. Practices are too small. They are too small to attract the staff they need, to offer flexible working patterns, to take on 7 day working, to meet the requirements of access, and to innovate at the pace required in the modern NHS. The challenges general practice is facing today are unprecedented, and this means that the only way a practice can stay small and survive is by federating.

It is not just practices that are changing. The role of the GP partner, Johnny explains, has now changed. In the past a GP partner was simply a GP prepared to buy into the premises. The payback was that they would be paid almost twice as much as a salaried GP. This is no longer the deal. If GP partners want to continue to be able to justify the additional take home pay, then they need to be prepared to put in the additional effort that comes with commissioning and federations and all of the additional demands on modern general practice. That is the deal they are committing to.

It is hard to wear the many hats of a modern GP, Johnny admits, but that does not make it impossible. Locally, being a CCG Governing Body member and part of a GP Federation meant that the problems of conflict of interest had to be explicitly addressed. But while the system seems set on making life difficult for GPs to make the changes that are required, Johnny is clear that there is no other way, and that there is always a way through.

The future, however it may feel, remains within the gift of general practice. Johnny is clear, ‘The imagination for where general practice will go will come not from the CCGs, not from NHS England, but from the practices themselves.’

You can hear the full interview with Dr Johnny McMahon, GP Chair of NHS Cannock Chase CCG here

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