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Healthcare is all about the people!

Published: 26th September 2023
I’ve just been looking at some fantastic photos from our Summer party.

Everyone was smiling and engaged, with some questionable dancing later from some of us. I couldn’t be prouder, working with our fantastic team of GPs, outpatient consultants, nurses, pharmacists, talking therapists, administrators, managers and many others.

The recently published Long Term Workforce Plan by NHS England acknowledges a current staffing gap of 150,000. This deficit is expected to grow to between 260,000 and 360,000 by 2036/37. Just pause and think about the scale of those numbers…

This NHS Plan is highly ambitious, overdue, but very welcome. It aims to double training places and take many other steps to increase qualified clinicians. However, a valid critique is that turning the taps on does not work unless the plug is in. I believe developing, recruiting and retaining high-quality and committed people is our greatest challenge.

Yes, we need to train more, but we also need to create roles that people want and then support them to develop careers that keep them in the NHS. This is crucial to sustaining the NHS as we know it.

I often hear people saying that staffing is a zero-sum game – there are only so many qualified staff to go around. This is only partially true. I’ve seen many friends and family leave the NHS due to frustration with their work situation. Not disgruntled with the principle of the NHS or their roles, but because of management, bureaucracy or frustration that they aren’t allowed to do their jobs properly. We must find ways to bring these people back, but most importantly work on how we can prevent them from wanting to leave the NHS in the first place.

The challenge is one for the NHS overall but also for each organisation that’s a cog in this mighty machine. When I look at the results from the most recent NHS staff survey (2022), with particular focus on the three overarching questions below, the national results show a downward trend and undeniable levels of staff concern. How are DHC doing?  We have improved on all three measures and are substantially outperforming the NHS average – but I am not happy with our results. There is so much more we can do and we are constantly seeking new ideas to keep improving.

NHS staff survey (2022)


The link between staffing levels, employee satisfaction and patient care is clear

We’ve recently received the results of the latest national GP Patient Survey and the DHC practices have averaged a 82% satisfaction level (compared to 71% nationally), with a 5% increase on the previous year (compared to a national 1% fall). It was particularly pleasing to see the results for Pond Tail Surgery in Godstone, which saw patient satisfaction rise from 50% to 77% within one year of joining DHC – fantastic recognition for the team’s efforts.

Hiring and retaining the right workforce matters if we are to get it right for our patients – more on this in my previous blog ‘What is happening to GP Practices’.
We want our staff to be with us for the long term and reap the benefits of reaching their career goals. Creating appealing roles for clinicians and continuous innovation in providing access to good quality patient care is vital. When conditions are right, the rest will follow.


It is possible to put that ‘plug’ in which could allow the NHS to survive, but there needs to be a culture change and continuous innovation to give us a chance of reaching and maintaining the right staffing levels.

I’m already looking forward to the next Summer party which will also be DHC’s 20th anniversary. I hope to see the same faces and some new ones, looking happy and engaged. I don’t expect everyone’s dancing to have improved, but if we create the right environment you just never know.

Integrated and flexible solutions – a win-win!

We recently recruited a physio team of six as FCPs (First Contact Practitioners) to work across our GP practices. This integrated team also work in outpatients and are thriving and progressing well in their careers. They were previously working outside the NHS for personal reasons but never stopped believing in the NHS ethos. Patients benefit through faster access to expertise (bypassing their GP), speedier recovery, receiving care closer to home and freeing up GP appointments. A national FCP service evaluation (Article on showed that 7/10 musculoskeletal patients were discharged after a single consultation, highlighting the success of this approach.

In our Talking Therapies service we’re changing the way we recruit mental health practitioners, to meet the needs of clients who prefer to opt for virtual therapy appointments from the comfort of their own home. We now hire practitioners nationwide to run online individual and groups sessions, enabling us to tap into a broader pool of expertise. This allows clients to access treatment how they prefer while offering therapists flexibility, support and growth opportunities.


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About me...

My name is Michael Arnaud and I am the CEO of DHC GP Federation. I have over 28 years of experience working alongside GPs and in this blog I discuss my thoughts on how we can bring healthcare services closer to patients’ homes.