Two months ago I was approached by somebody who had contacted me via the Guardian website, and asked to speak about my experiences of general practice as a trainee at the NHS Alliance Summit. I was immediately interested, as it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to be able to speak about the issues that I raised in my article (http://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/views-from-the-nhs-frontline/2014/oct/27/why-i-love-being-a-gp) to an engaging audience. The only problem that I had was that I had never heard of NHS Alliance.
I went through several thought processes; my first thought was ‘Who are NHS Alliance?’. So I did some research, firstly just googling their name, which took me to their website. All that I could gather was that they are a group of professionals who have an agenda to change general practice for the better. This all seemed very positive, and really kept me interested. But then I started thinking about PR and spin – of course their website would portray them in a purely positive light, right? Perhaps I am a cynic, but I was surprised that I had never heard of this organisation in all the time I had been working in the NHS. So I began digging, but all to no avail. I really couldn’t find much more information about NHS Alliance. I even asked my senior colleagues, and they seemed as ignorant as I was regarding their policies. So, it was an interesting experience going to the Summit with no expectations and absolutely no clue as to what would happen there and what kind of response I would get from my talk.
What happened next was a very pleasant surprise! I arrived at a very well organised meeting, where my personal itinerary for the day was printed on the back of my name badge, and I was ushered into a plenary where some very inspirational young men were talking about a project called ‘Salford Dadz’. I won’t tell you any more here, but I would definitely recommend that you have a read about them. The day just got better and better from there. I met doctors, nurses, pharmacists and so many other professionals, who shared my sentiments about the failings of general practice. They spoke passionately about their own experiences, and gave innovative ideas about what we could all do. Most interestingly, their ideas weren’t just the ‘pie in the sky’ kind of ideas, but real, tangible projects that have been put in place around the country, and are really working to make general practice function as it should be. And all of this was done without pointing the finger of blame.
The atmosphere during the day was one of positivity and camaraderie, so much so that by the time I was asked to take the stage for my speech, I didn’t feel half as nervous as I thought I would. I felt reasonably comfortable speaking to a large room of strangers, who had all spoken very confidently during the day, and I even scrapped my planned speech, and found myself just speaking from the heart. It really was a wonderful forum to be invited to speak in.
I feel confused as to how NHS Alliance could have been so far off my radar all this time, and I am so glad that I was invited to be a part of their exciting day. I would urge anybody with an interest in improving the services that we provide in general practice to get involved with this organisation. Spending time in the company of such enthusiastic, positive and proactive people really got the fire in my belly burning. I came away from there wanting to change the world – well at least the world of general practice. But not only do I have a renewed motivation, I also feel that NHS Alliance has given me access to the tools to do so. As I said in my speech yesterday, I am now more excited than ever to continue my journey in general practice.