Clinical leadership case study: GP and senior responsible officer

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Dr Claire Fuller, Senior Responsible Officer, Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership, on becoming a clinical leader.

My journey

I am the Senior Responsible Officer for the Surrey Heartlands Health & Care Partnership and lead the integrated care system (ICS). Previous to this, my roles have included Clinical Chair of Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group (SDCCG) and I have been a practising GP since 1995. In my GP role, I worked as a partner before having children and then, following this, returned as a salaried/ retainer/locum GP. I have worked as a GP in A&E and provided medical management to a community hospital. I became a clinical lead for the primary care trust at the time of transition to CCGs, and subsequently clinical chair for SDCCG. Following this role, I also worked as Chief Clinical Offer, focusing on developing clinical leadership within the CCG.

I developed a GP Leadership Programme which is now in operation across the Surrey Heartlands footprint, with more than 100 participants to date. This has facilitated the creation of primary care networks across the whole integrated care system. Developing clinical leaders across the sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) more widely has helped us reduce unwarranted variation begin to standardise care.

I have supported the development of pioneering new integration initiatives such as community hubs and Epsom Health and Care which are succeeding in reducing non-elective emergency admissions by 4%.

The turning point

Becoming CCG Chair launched me into my next leadership steps. The key for me though has been to continue to do clinical practice as a GP.

Key barriers/challenges and how I worked through these

I haven’t had any specific barriers however my approach has been to not seek permission and to take opportunities when I have been able to, ensuring ideas are supported by a robust plan. 

Organisational support to make this happen

  • Listen to clinicians — non-hierarchical, multiprofessional, parity of esteem between mental and physical health.
  • Listen to patients.
  • Have a plan recognised by clinicians and patients.
  • Be clear what you are trying to do.
  • Evaluate what you do.
  • Don’t forget to include the wider determinants of health.
  • It’s all about relationships.

My top tips

  • Always do what feels right — regardless of whether you are in a clinical or non-clinical role.
  • Find an external mentor to support you.
  • Find your passion then get on and deliver.
  • If you have caring responsibilities, don’t apologise for this — work/life balance is important, and we are all entitled to this but do not use this as an excuse for non-delivery.

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