GP leadership in clinical commissioning groups: a qualitative multi-case study approach across England

Marshall, Martin; Holti, Richard; Hartley, Jean; Matharu, Tatum and Storey, John (2018). GP leadership in clinical commissioning groups: a qualitative multi-case study approach across England. British Journal of General Practice, 68(671) e427-e432.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp18X696197

Abstract

Background
Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were established in England in 2013 to encourage GPs to exert greater influence over the processes of service improvement and redesign in the NHS. Little is known about the extent and the ways in which GPs have assumed these leadership roles.

Aim
To explore the nature of clinical leadership of GPs in CCGs, and to examine the enablers and barriers to implementing a policy of clinical leadership in the NHS.

Design and setting
A qualitative multi-case study approach in six localities across England. The case studies were purposefully sampled to represent different geographical localities and population demographics, and for their commitment to redesigning specified clinical or service areas.

Method
Data were collected from the case study CCGs and their partner organisations using a review of relevant documents, semi-structured individual or group interviews, and observations of key meetings. The data were analysed thematically and informed by relevant theories.

Results
GPs prefer a collaborative style of leadership that may be unlikely to produce rapid or radical change. Leadership activities are required at all levels in the system from strategy to frontline delivery, and the leadership behaviours of GPs who are not titular leaders are as important as formal leadership roles. A new alliance is emerging between clinicians and managers that draws on their different skillsets and creates new common interests. The uncertain policy environment in the English NHS is impacting on the willingness and the focus of GP leaders.

Conclusion
GPs are making an important contribution as leaders of health service improvement and redesign but there are significant professional and political barriers to them optimising a leadership role.

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