CEO of Hackney GP Confederation on why group is seen as model of best practice nationally

Laura Sharpe. Picture: Giles

Laura Sharpe. Picture: Giles - Credit: Archant

When GPs across Hackney were asked to formally join forces in 2014 so they could better work together, no one expected them all to say yes.

But that’s what happened and, four years on, the City and Hackney GP Confederation is still working to improve healthcare for patients across the borough.

The not-for-profit group, owned by the GPs themselves, is awarded “primary care” contracts by the City and Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and runs them through Hackney’s 41 practices – plus one in the City.

Before it was launched, Laura Sharpe was asked by chair Dr Deborah Colvin to take on the role of chief exec, which she agreed to do “for a few months”. She’s still there, and is proud that the group is seen as a model of best practice across the country.

“I wasn’t working at the time, but I’ve worked in the NHS all my life,” Laura told the Gazette. “I thought it was quite an interesting idea. I brought Janet McMillan [deputy CEO] with me and we had a chat with Deborah and said we would hang around for a few months.

“We are still here because we love it, mostly because we are making a difference for patients.”

Laura was well placed for the role, and knows most of the GPs from her time as CEO of the old City and Hackney Primary Care Trust (PCT). But she still didn’t expect a full house.

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“It’s remarkable that every single practice said yes,” she added. “There are places up and down the country trying to do the same and getting nowhere. We had everybody in from day one.”

The GPs are helped with staffing and recruitment, as well as bidding for cash and tackling administrative issues.

The confederation model is now NHS national policy and Laura regularly has health professionals on the phone to her asking for the magic formula.

Some of the biggest success stories are the Stop Smoking Service hubs, which are helping record numbers of smokers quit, free preventative health checks and the service for patients with long-term conditions.

Laura explained: “In the olden days if you had diabetes you would sit at home and see your GP if you were ill. Our GPs search for people with diabetes or people at risk and contact them and see them or get nurses to make sure they get all the checks. It’s much more proactive.”