Objectives: To identify and explore leadership roles and responsibilities for implementing the workforce development strategy; to identify approaches used to implement and disseminate the strategy; and to identify and explore challenges and achievements in the first 18 months following implementation.
Design: A formative evaluation with qualitative methods was used. Documentary analysis, interviews (n = 29) and two focus groups (n = 12) were conducted with a purposive sample of individuals responsible for strategy implementation. Data were transcribed and analysed thematically using framework analysis.
Setting: Regional health area in Kent, Surrey and Sussex: 24 primary care trusts (PCTs) and 900 general practices.
Results: Primary care workforce tutors, lifelong learning advisors, GP tutors, patch associate GP deans and chairs of PCT education committees all had vital leadership roles, some existing and others newly developed. Approaches used to implement the strategy encompassed working within and across organisational boundaries, communication and dissemination of information. Challenges encountered by implementers were resistance to change - evident in some negative attitudes to uptake of training and development opportunities - and role diversity and influence. Achievements included successes in embedding appraisal and protected learning time, and changes in educational practices and services.
Conclusions: The use of key leadership roles and change-management approaches had brought about early indications of positive transition in lifelong learning cultures.