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Exclusive: practice managers ‘crucial’ to implementing social prescribing in general practice

by Costanza Pearce
29 March 2019

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Practice managers have a ‘crucial’ role in the integration of social prescribing into general practice, national clinical lead for social prescribing at NHS England Dr Michael Dixon has said.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event earlier this week (26 March), Dr Dixon, who is also co-chair of the Social Prescribing Network and chairman of the College of Medicine, said it was important to get GPs ‘on side’.

Dr Dixon told Management in Practice that managers would be key to the culture change that is required to fully persuade GPs of the benefits and viability of social prescribing.

He said: ‘[Practice managers] can make sure the system for referral is simple and that it is used maximally. I think practice managers are going to be totally crucial.’

According to Dr Dixon, practice managers will also bring business skills to primary care networks, which will employ social prescribing link workers funded by NHS England.

He added that their ‘practical knowledge and experience’ alongside their ability to make business cases will be ‘really important’ for the recruitment of link workers and other additional staff taken on by networks.
‘Vital’ to communication
In addition to facilitating the recruitment of link workers in their networks, Dr Dixon said practice managers will be ‘a vital part of communication’.

He said: ‘General practice at the moment is come in at 7am heads down, leave the practice at 8pm heads up, with probably no conversation between the partners. It’s just relentless, patient after patient.

‘Practice managers can not only make sure that they get their link worker but also that that link worker is connected properly to every clinician. If that doesn’t happen, they won’t use them.’
Thinking ahead
Dr Dixon said practice managers need to ‘think slightly ahead of the game’, to what the construction of primary care networks and social prescribing mean for the future.

He said: ‘For me they’re about connecting general practice to its community and a wider role for general practice, not only investing in the community and making sure that it is part of developing local health but also getting extra resources.

‘It’s about general practice taking the mantle of local public health, which is really exciting.’

Practice managers should ‘make all the connections they can to the community’ in places like the supermarket, council and local authority, he added.