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27 November 2019

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I would like to take more time off to attend practice management events and meetings, but my partners won’t allow it. What can I do?

Our panel of leading tackle the common problems PMs face. Compiled by Kaye McIntosh

Steve Williams says

A well-led organisation should have the training and personal development of all staff at the heart of its goals and objectives. However, only employees of organisations with more than 250 employees have the legal right to ask for time off for work-related training. The employee must have a minimum of 26 weeks service.

The employer has no obligation to either pay or allow for such training. However, every year you will undergo an appraisal process and this is the ideal time to raise current or future training needs. These can then be formally included into a personal development plan and any restrictions can be identified here. For example, provisional time off may be agreed, but if unforeseen circumstances arise within the practice then this takes priority. This applies to the whole team.

Partners will ask for your support when providing information for their appraisals and revalidation, so encourage them to support you – and your staff.  If they value their staff, then they will be empathetic to ensuring that all staff are provided with the opportunity to improve and develop skills year on year.

Continuing professional development applies to all staff and those practices that invest, financially or allowing time off in lieu, will realise the potential that such training will have upon the individual concerned – and more importantly the impact it will have on their performance at work and their overall contribution to the practice.

Staff are the practice’s most important asset. Partners should value every member of the team.

Steve Williams is co-chair at the Practice Management Network and AMSPAR treasurer

Kay Keane recommends                                                                         

Keeping in touch with other practice managers is essential – it can be a very lonely job without the interaction of fellow PMs. Working more collaboratively can also save time and money.  That doesn’t always need to be at physical meetings. There are some great online resources and forums that you can use, some for a fee, others free to access.  

There are also some resources and meetings that don’t add any value and just sap you of your time and energy, so do some research about what is useful. Ask your PM colleagues; they will tell you what is unmissable and what should be avoided.  

We should all be allowed some study leave – what does your policy say?  There isn’t one? That might be the first problem. Include in your policy a requirement to cascade your learning to the wider team to add value to the practice.

Once you have done your research collate the evidence and present it to the partners.  

  • You might get as much knowledge and guidance from the experts at one day of a Management in Practice event as you would at eight or 10 other meetings – and it’s free!
  • Following good social media accounts will show projects you can tap into. The leaders are usually delighted to help with specific questions too – none of us want to reinvent the wheel.
  • LMCs and CCGs have groups that will be important for you to attend – in some this is expected by the organisation.  

My advice is to be choosy, be clever with free resources and make friends with practice managers that you feel have similar views, practice populations and drive as you. This could be in your locality or outside. It’s those networks that you can share work and resources with and who will be your allies and confidantes.

Kay Keane is PM at the Alvanley Family Practice in Stockport, Greater Manchester

Nick Nurden advises

The PM role is often very isolated, sat between the practice staff and the GP partners, and within the practice there is very little scope for peer group support or development. It is important for your own development (and sanity) to be able to network with other PMs and to make sure you remain current and up to date. Also, attending such events gives you a little headspace and time to think – something a PM rarely gets in the practice during the normal working day. It is important for your general wellbeing.

It is disappointing when the partners do not support their PMs by allowing a reasonable amount of time each month or year to attend events and meetings. Some would rather adopt an approach that suggests if you are not visible and working in the practice, you are not being productive and wasting time.

My first suggestion would be to try and present to the partners the benefits that allowing you to have some peer group support and personal  development time will bring them. Explain (and quantify, if you can) how this small investment in time will bring them better productivity in the long term, how sharing with other PMs and going to events will help you get new ideas that you can bring back to the practice and set out you will be more productive.

As GPs, they are required to complete a minimum amount of CPD each year (and be able to demonstrate this clearly in their appraisal) to maintain their licence to practice. You could draw a comparison with this and emphasise that some time for reflection and learning is essential for you, too. Finally, if none of that works, you could do some of this in your own time. You should not have to use your own annual leave for these things but, faced with no alternative, it is better than you becoming burned out and miserable in your role.

Nick Nurden is Business Manager at The Ridge practice in Bradford, West Yorkshire