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Gary Lenden

What are you doing now?

I have been a GP for the past 20 years, 18 of which have been back in Plymouth at Pathfields Health. My focus is on practice development and system change and over the past ten years have built the practice from 7000 over 2 sites up towards 50 000 over 10 sites by the middle of this year. It is an uncertain time for the NHS but one that can release many opportunities for entrepreneurial development.

Other roles include being a Commissioner for Devon CCG, trying to improve services within a constrained budget, a trainer for all forms of medic in the system and a Minor Surgeon working across several settings.

What route did you take up to this point?

My route is a pretty bland one – from DHSB I went straight into St Barts Medical School. I then returned to Plymouth to survive my initial medical career. Subsequently I moved to Birmingham to pursue my interest in trauma Anaesthetics but eventually came back to General Practice in 1996 and Plymouth in 98.

Any significant crossroads?

I think with the pressure on the NHS over the past decade, it has opened the potential to make enormous change in the structure of it. Whilst practices are now under strain, the proliferation of collaborative working and practices mergers is enabling care to be offered to the population by a much wider clinical team, This will ensure that everyone will be able to see the right person at the right time in the right place, but such enormous change does take time.

What have you learnt most about yourself?

I have learnt that challenging situations are full of opportunity to push real and lasting change that will be beneficial to all. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain, to ask why and to innovate. Not all of our mergers have been totally smooth, but they have all been successful and offer an education for the next venture.

What words of wisdom would you give to a student joining DHSB in Year 7?

Use the opportunities you will be handed to your benefit. You may have no idea which way you want to go in life – some of us are still looking – but the school will offer a supportive environment for you to explore your own abilities and make your own decisions.

And for a Sixth Former leaving DHSB?

Whichever way you decide to go, you will have many opportunities to change direction throughout your life – you are not committed to a path, merely on a journey and you will have developed the tools to make decisions for yourself. Not all of those will be right but they will become part of you, with foundations in a solid supportive education.

Any fond memories of school you can share?

Most of my memories are based on the sports field. I suppose the County Rugby Schools cup final when we got to the ground just in time to get onto the pitch at Torquay. A day where all of Exeter School had been given the day off to be there and we were pretty much there as a 15. In the red mud. A nil nil draw after extra time!! Despite my best verbal efforts I was not sent off – just.

Do you have a message for any of your teachers?

I’m not sure any will have hung around this long! I expect they will all be enjoying the peace of retirement but in the satisfaction of many careers launched through their support. I will say to John Bowden my English Master though that ONE day I still intend to write that book – when I eventually find the time!


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