Help us form plan for private care


By Sue Smith, Interim chief executive, Independent Doctors Federation

Sue Smith

Sue Smith

The Independent Doctors Federation (IDF) was established some 27 years ago by a group of like-minded doctors who worked full-time in the independent sector.

They were conscious of the need and benefits of establishing a forum to exchange ideas and have meaningful discussion about their practice in the private sector and establishing a means of support for each other.

The ‘forum’ became the ‘federation’ in 2009 to more aptly des­cribe the evolving role of the IDF.

Now the IDF exists as a membership organisation to promote excellence in the independent medical sector and is the voice for independent doctors, both specialists and GPs.

Its continued success and growth, as for any top organisation, is its ability to recognise and institute change to ensure it remains relevant to its membership.

The IDF has been particularly fortunate to secure a succession of conscientious chairmen who have steered it through the many changes in the development of independent medicine and the effects of the changes of regulation in the management of healthcare in the UK.

And now the IDF is again challenging itself to review its administrative organisation, its services for members and its overall role as a voice for independent doctors in healthcare.

This is a time for action and, as the recently appointed interim chief executive, my immediate role is to work and support the current executive in developing a strategy that will include demonstrable and tangible initiatives for the many stakeholders that we represent.

Best-kept secret

I will be ensuring that the IDF is no longer the best-kept secret in town but the organisation of choice for doctors who aspire to make a positive contribution to their future.

There are currently more than 1,200 members of the IDF, with an increasing geographical spread across the UK.

This is partly driven by the appraisal and revalidation service that is provided and also by an increasing desire to have the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with the regulators, the insurers and other key agencies that impact on the daily life of independent practitioners.

To shape and implement a proactive strategy, the voice and views of our current membership is critical.

I have been and continue to meet with as many grass-root members as I can to ensure that views of consultants and GPs, across specialties, younger and older doctors and those doctors who practise outside of London can all be taken into account.

The IDF offers an important opportunity to doctors to discuss the many issues that they face in the administration of their practices and that access to others facing similar issues can produce workable solutions.

The parallel activities of education and networking as well as the appraisal and revalidation service have different significance to members but, for many, all of the available activities play an important role.

As different barriers emerge for doctors practising in the independent sector, there are potentially other and possibly more critical services that should be available.

My review will look at this in some detail and I am very keen to hear from members and non-members alike as to suggestions for innovative and sustainable services that are value-added.

Younger doctors

I am particularly interested in seeing our younger doctors involving themselves in their own future and helping to shape debate and engagement.

Regulation of healthcare delivery and changes to professional freedom will continue and it is imperative that a vibrant and committed membership of the IDF is proactive in these discussions. Doctors must be at the centre of these important talks.

We also have the opportunity to work with doctors and the medical profession as a whole to strengthen trust in the profession. This is part of the bigger picture of working together and strengthening the image of independent practice and its practitioners.

As we look at current and impending issues, a collaborative approach will reap dividends not only for our members but also for our members patients.

The IDF can continue to achieve its vision of excellence in healthcare as we initiate dialogue with all stakeholders and recognise that quality is the remit of all of us.

I have had the privilege of working in healthcare delivery my entire career, both at the sharp end and also in executive positions.

I am excited about the future potential for the IDF and its ability to support doctors, enable them to be involved in decision-making about their careers and strengthen their identity with key stakeholders.