'Better work-life balance needed for medics,' says Chorley GP

GPs and other clinicians are feeling “burned out” and need a better balance between their work and home life, according to the newly-elected chair of a powerful NHS committee in Central Lancashire.

Dr Lindsey Dickinson, who was elected last month to the top job at Chorley and South Ribble’s clinical commissioning group (CCG), says that new collaborations between GP practices and across the wider health and social care system could relieve the pressure which many medics are feeling.

Dr. Lindsey Dickinson is the new chair of Chorley and South Ribble CCG

Dr. Lindsey Dickinson is the new chair of Chorley and South Ribble CCG

“We need to try to stop seeing ourselves as primary, secondary and community care – and be more joined up, so that we consider ourselves as one NHS and not lots of different entities,” the Chorley-born GP said.

“We need to look at the work-life balance of all of our clinicians, because a lot of them are finding it a struggle day-to-day. The question is how we offset some of that work and allow other professionals to get involved and make their lives easier.”

Along with the rest of the country, Central Lancashire has recently organised itself into “primary care networks” – groups of GP surgeries covering populations of between 30,000 and 50,000 people. Each of the nine networks in the region will recruit various specialist roles over the next three years, including clinical pharmacists and community paramedics.

Dr Dickinson believes that the effect of the changes – which also include closer co-operation with the voluntary sector – will be felt by staff, as well as patients.

“The new roles should lift some of the burden and allow GPs to focus on the complex patients who need the time and support to better manage their conditions, so that they are not ending up in A&E."

Dr Dickinson has spent all of her nine-year GP career to date in Central Lancashire – including most of a two-year training stint at the trust which runs Chorley and South Ribble and the Royal Preston hospitals.

She hopes that having experience which is local – but not too long-term – will benefit her in her new role as chair of the organisation responsible for planning healthcare services in Chorley and South Ribble.

“I hesitate to use the phrase ‘new breed of GP’,” the 38-year-old laughs.

“But I haven’t seen the multiple cycles of change that some of my older colleagues have witnessed. When they sit in meetings and talk about how we were doing things 20 years ago, I don’t know much about that – and so maybe I have a slightly different perspective.

“However, because most of my training was done at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, I do know first-hand about the difficulties which it faced when I was there, albeit a decade ago.

“Ultimately, I want to represent the area as best as I can – because the healthcare that we provide as a CCG is the healthcare that my family and I experience as patients,” she adds.