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Developing a federated model of General Practice: Developing the board members

"All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work." Calvin Coolidge, 30th U.S. President

The development of Directors is part of the overall development of the company; nobody should expect the first board with a new GP Federation to turn up on day one fully competent as Directors.

For those who arrive with the right basic skills and mindsets, becoming a Director within a new GP Federation is a fantastic opportunity as it will allow you to help shape healthcare provision locally - creating the General Practice of the future.

Keep in mind that research[1] shows that successful boards exhibit four key characteristics:

1. A focus on strategic decision-making;
2. Board members who trust each other and act cohesively/behave corporately;
3. Constructive challenge by board members of each other;
4. Effective chairs that ensure meetings have clear and effective processes.

All of these, and more, will be worked upon with Board from day one and you will also start to progress as a company, embedding a new way of working as you proceed.  This is likely to include:

  • Clarifying the role of the Board, and agreeing your understanding of what is expected of the board;
  • Agreeing how you set about delivering, while taking into account your values;
  • Setting appropriate measurements to ensure you know you are delivering;
  • Agreeing the standards your board will work to;
  • Agreeing how will you monitor overall performance.

As part of that process, Personal Development Plans (PDP) could be developed for all Board members.  PDPs will reflect the different levels of experience of the Board members and plans can then be agreed to build competencies/skills where required.

Some examples of how personal development needs could be addressed are:

  • One to one coaching
  • Participation in recognised leadership development programmes
  • Buddying and mentoring
  • Annual appraisal
  • Learning on the job with coaching and mentoring to support

By using this process, or something similar, it will ensure personal development plans are implemented and continue to be actioned, allowing everyone to grow and develop confidently within their board role.  

Regular Board Development sessions can also be established to focus on key areas of board working.  Examples of development work that could be collectively undertaken include:

  • The role and responsibility of the Board and its members
  • Team building
  • Agreeing the vision and values for the Federation
  • Stakeholder mapping
  • General Practice issues
  • Finance
  • Governance

In addition, the board will need to work through its roles and responsibilities, reviewing as appropriate, so as to meet the requirements of company law. While you will undoubtedly learn as you progress, having the right legal and accountancy support in place early will ensure as a board you are kept on the straight and narrow and within the requirements of company law, all the way through your work.

I am often asked what it takes to come forwards and sit on the board of a federation, and as a result we have developed a list of behaviours and characteristics you would expect to see in a company director.  We also have a document that details the roles and responsibilities of a Director, including the legal duties you take on, which is freely available (please email to request a copy).
The key for me though, is that those coming forwards arrive with a 'can do' attitude, a determination to succeed and overcome any obstacles, a willingness to learn, an understanding that you will be required to have difficult conversations and above all else the ability to make and then stick to decisions, which you will be held accountable for. 

In finishing, I cannot stress highly enough, for the right people this is a fantastic role and opportunity. 

Next time we will explore how you divide responsibilities within the board and across the company.

In the meantime, for more information on how BW Medical Accountants can support you in forming a federation, or to arrange to speak to one of our experts please contact or call 0191 653 1022.

Additionally, if you should have questions for our specialists please email and we will do our best to answer these within the blog.

[1] NHS Confederation - Effective boards in the NHS?

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