Local born and bred GP, and GP Cancer Lead across East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, Dr Neil Smith has been awarded the ‘GP of the Year Award 2017’ by the Royal College of General Practitioners, in the North West.
Dr Smith has been a GP, practicing for 22 years at Oakenhurst Medical Practice which is now situated in Barbara Castle Way Health Centre, Blackburn. Neil, an ex pupil of Saint Mary’s College in Blackburn also works as stadium doctor at Ewood Park for Blackburn Rovers.
The Royal College of General Practitioners award recognises his work as a GP and as a GP educator. As associate dean at Manchester Medical School, Neil developed a ‘grow your own’ policy to encourage medical students to stay and work in the area, improving the quality of education and encouraged medical students to go into a career in general practice. As a result of this he has mentored scores of junior doctors, 24 of whom are now working as G.P. colleagues in his locality including six in his own practice.
After witnessing the devastating effect of cancer on his patients and his community, he has transformed cancer services in Pennine Lancashire (East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen) by redesigning care by reconsidering every stage on a patient’s journey and ensuring equity of access. His ‘Think Cancer’ campaign won the 2015 Macmillan Excellence in Innovation Award and revolutionized how CCGs across the country create primary care incentive schemes for cancer care.
Dr Smith and the cancer team he leads won the National HSJ Patient Safety Award 2016. The judges highlighted the success in reducing delayed diagnosis, timely referral to specialist services and work to improve safety management and deliver excellent care. The national care quality commission (CQC) has described his work as ‘Outstanding’.
In 2017 he and his team were finalists in the ‘National Transforming Health Care Awards’, for improving cancer outcomes. In addition his efforts were highly commended in the ‘2017 National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) shared learning awards’, for the impact this had locally, regionally and nationally.
Dr Smith said: “I love working where I grew up and being a part of this wonderful community and area. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded with kind and caring colleagues, staff and patients. I want to ensure that patients can see and be treated by high quality GPs now and for the future. I am particularly passionate about improving cancer care, as I have seen the devastating effect of cancer on my patients and in the community where I live and work.
“I cannot emphasise enough, the importance of an early diagnosis as this does save lives. So if anyone is concerned about any symptoms always get them checked out as early as possible. By doing this you can rule cancer out; or if it is; get it treated quickly and successfully. It is a privilege to do my job and to receive this award.”
In his spare time Dr Smith enjoys swimming, cycling and running, having competed in a number of triathlons, including the NHS and the Macmillan triathlons, achieving wins in both for his age group.