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Why the Role of Clinical Director will Shape PCNs

One of the first steps in establishing a Primary Care Network (PCN) is the appointment of a Clinical Director. Since new contract for GPs was released in January this year, the NHS has provided guidance on the credentials for the Clinical Director which, surprisingly to some, does not specify that the Clinical Director should be a GP.

Having had in-depth conversations with clients and reviewed the role and responsibilities, it’s clear that the role of Clinical Director is a real opportunity to refresh the style of leadership in the NHS. Those who take on the role will have an opportunity to connect with senior leadership and to help shape the agenda at a local level.

So, who might that person be?

There is most definitely a focus on leadership with responsibilities including: influencing, leading and supporting the development of excellent relationships; providing strategic leadership; developing relationships and working closely with other network Clinical Directors and; acting as a link between the network and other institutions (full details of the role and responsibilities of the Clinical Director are in the BMA Handbook).

We know that NHS England's acting director of primary care, Dr Nikita Kanani believes that PCNs are a chance for ‘new leadership’. Dr Kanani told the HSJ that while she respected previous leadership, she believes that “we need a new style of leadership, we need to make sure it’s collaborative and connected, and representative”.

Other credentials for the Clinical Director

When asked at a recent conference by a London nurse why PCNs have to be led by a GP, Dr Nikita Kanani said “They don’t. They’re clinically led so it can be anybody.” This broadens the talent pool enormously!

PCNs will be responsible for appointing their own Clinical Director and the other credential to bear in mind is that the Clinical Director needs to be an internal hire, for the time being anyway: “Due to the need to be able to get various aspects of the network up and running in a relatively short space of time… an internal appointment is strongly recommended” says the GP contract.

“While there is no requirement for the Clinical Director to be appointed from within the network, we recommend that the first option should be to consider an appointment from within, as a failure to do so risks reducing the local ownership of leadership and decision making.”

The amount of time to be dedicated to the role will be down to how the PCN decides to make the role work. The funding available may shape that, and the numbers being quoted are around 0.25 WTE per 50,000 patients at a national average GP salary.

Leadership is central to the success of PCNs

So, PCN’s are looking for an internal hire with great leadership potential and a clinical background. Let’s now look at the type of leadership that’s needed.

The theme that stands out strongly when identifying and developing the role of Clinical Director is that of collaborative leadership. This style of leadership will be critical to the success of PCNs and the Clinical Director will need to lead by example to bring the best out of their network and the people within it.

In terms of what this style of leadership looks like we can look at the competencies that flow through this piece for GP Online in which Dr. Kanani shares some of her own leadership experiences:

  • Common vision: “Creating an environment where people share a common vision for the future and recognise their part in making it a reality”.
  • Relationship building: “Building meaningful connections with colleagues, peers and stakeholders”.
  • Collaboration: “Bringing people together, building relationships and working collaboratively – a far cry from the top-down, hierarchical approach of years gone by”.
  • Resilience: “By investing in people and relationships, we not only capitalise on all the resources we have at our disposal…. we also help to build resilience and strength within our workforce.”

The philosophy of the primary care network model emphasises the value of collaborative, community-orientated care and this needs to be modelled and lived by its leaders. At Miad Healthcare we’re helping PCNs and GPs identify and develop their leadership skills to capitalise on this model. To find out more about our assessment, training and development opportunities for clinicians please get in touch with us.

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  • Ruth Frost, Provider Development Lead/Advisor, Health London Partnerships, NHS England. - Miad were a pleasure to work with, engaging, perceptive and flexible to the changing needs as the programme rolled out. They engaged well with the wide range of General Practice
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