The Role of a Primary Care Network Clinical Director

Tara Humphrey joins Dr Gandhi for a special episode, talking about life as a clinical director of a PCN. We share what the role means for your practice, your network, and you.


Dr Gandhi is a GP partner trainer (eGP Learning) and a Clinical Director. Within the network, there are 7 practices, in the Nottingham City area. The network serves 67,000 patients with 15 PCN staff.


2:05 We kick this interview off, by tackling the question, if you knew what you knew now, what would you do differently. Dr Gandhi, shared that he’d always have a concrete plan in place to enable the development to be proactive, rather than reactive. He also shares the importance of practice expectations outside the network.


3:40 When looking to Q1 and the new financial year, the Clinical Director will be looking at results and setting goals. For Dr Gandhi he is focused on making sure that what he and his team are doing is having an impact. Using DES as a mechanism to do and achieve goals. For him, they are looking at Practice Delivery and Patient Service.


We discuss the additional roles that can be brought on to support practice workload and patient service. Dr Gandhi shares the projects he is currently working on and the rationale for the roles they are developing.


7:49 The role of the CD is a challenging role. Dr Gandhi honestly shares the ups and downs of the role and the challenges he relishes as a Clinical Director.


9:11 Has there ever been a time you wanted to quit? “Almost every day” Dr Gandhi shared with a smile. He later goes on to share that he is applying for re-election. We discuss the challenges of the role. One of the things that make the role a challenge is the constant shifting and changing of the landscape. From day to day, particularly in Covid, things could change on a daily basis.


10:31 - We talk about the management of others and how to encourage engagement. As Dr Gandhi explains, if you show him the WHY behind doing something rather than TELLING someone, he will likely be far more supportive. This is the approach he takes with his team and cascading information down.


12:02 - After talking about how people are wedded to ways of working we move on to discuss what happens when the practice is telling the CD they don’t believe in something, a new role or project. When roles don’t have an immediate benefit, a practice can be less encouraging for example. As Dr Gandhi shares, there is a moment of trust when creating a role. Many of the new roles are not traditional i.e. it’s clear what a nurse does but the practice and patient community are less aware of how a care coordinator in a practice can support them.


13:00 Ultimately, the role of the CD provides a unique opportunity to do things differently and to make things better


14:26 The practical side of the role is really important. Dr Gandhi shares his approach to operationalising your network. He touches on:

How to arrange and develop the team, when to look to the local federation for support, the overall support structure and managing relationships.


17:38 - At this point of the interview, we put the network manager role under the microscope. The network management has been able to be really effective in areas that Dr Gandhi didn’t initially realise. He notes this roles’ ability to interface between teams within the network, creating seamless relationships.


18:58 - Tara asks Dr Gandhi if he would consider running again for the role and committing to another 2.5 years. He is! And he offers more on the nomination and election process for the Clinical Director role.


21:02 The role of the CD is going to be different moving forward. Over the last 2 years, the pandemic has dominated the running and innovation. We’re now at a turning point for networks.


22:17 What’s the criteria of the CD role? Dr Gandhi shares the specification but he dives deeper into the supporting skills required. This includes:

  • Having the confidence of the people you’re leading

  • Managing a team, and being able to do the best for the group as a collective

  • Communication skills and adaptability

  • Leadership skills

Dr Gandhi believes you don’t have to be the finished product when taking on the role of a CD. Rather having a foundation for these skills as the role will offer development and shaping of leadership.


25:19 It’s the practical aspects of the role that Dr Gandhi wished he had nailed down when taking the role. The practical aspects would have helped him save wasted time and be more effective.


26:42 Dr Gandhi and Tara share their top resources for CDs looking for support

  • eGP Learning - distilling practical information

  • Ben Gowland’s General Practice Podcast - Support around additional roles, experiences of others in similar situations

  • THC Primary Care and The Business of Healthcare Podcast - understanding the management side of things and understanding the value of the network manager resource and the impact the role has

  • Dr Rachel Morris’ You Are Not a Frog Podcast - for leadership and team work development

  • WhatsApp Groups - provide additional support and opportunity to ask questions in an open environment

  • NHS Confederation - distilling 100 pager docs in to digestible actionable information and a safe space to bounce ideas off others


32:19 - Over the years we’ve often said to one another, wouldn’t it be great if all of this could be in one place?! This brings us nicely to sharing more about our PCN Plus collaboration between eGP Learning, THC Primary Care and Ockham Healthcare


34:31 PCN Plus provides practical leadership specifically around the role of the CD and practice leads. We share our approaches over the years, what worked, what failed and why, and how we turned things around. Pulling on our shared experiences we offer insights and our learnings to help you and apply practically in your role.


There are lots of leadership courses that teach general soft skills to develop leadership. PCN Plus goes one further by specifically looking at the aspects of the CD role and leadership for this role.


To find out more about the PCN Plus visit the course information page here.

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Experienced PCN Clinical Director Dr Hussain Gandhi, former NHS Chief Executive Ben Gowland and experienced PCN Manager Tara Humphrey, have joined forces to bring you PCN Plus.

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Together they have a proven track record in leading general practices, primary care services and PCN Networks. Combining their expertise, to bring you PCN Plus, a leadership programme that speaks to the heart of the challenges and opportunities you will face as a PCN leader.

This is a practical course, underpinned by countless leadership, management, facilitation and quality improvement courses; a Masters in Business Administration in Health Care; thousands of hours of hands-on experience; and a plethora of leadership and management books and podcasts.