The rising workload in general practice is keeping everyone on their toes. Angela Sharda quizzes a practice manager on how she rises to the challenge
Q Why did you decide to become a practice manager?
A I was not sure about working in the public sector but I was bringing up three children alone and wanted to be closer to home.
Q What are the biggest challenges you face on a daily basis and how do you tackle them?
A The changes in the NHS workforce are a challenge. Just as you get to know a group of people at NHS England or NHS Property, there are reorganisation changes and new people are in post. Managing patient expectations as funding decreases is a major issue.
Q What are your biggest achievements as a practice manager?
A I have an amazing team and I am constantly feeling proud of them; particularly every time we get a thank you, when they deal with difficult situations or I see them being caring.
Q What advice can you give to struggling practice managers?
A Organisation is key to keeping up with everything. You must also plan ahead as this will help in the long run.
You need to have a robust human resources process – I use the law firm Primary Care Law. Having its contracts and policies helps me manage on a day-to-day basis and when staffing becomes challenging.
Find people who can take the strain off you. For example, we have a fantastic company that deals with our telephones. I don’t need to approach it about improvements to help our patients – it comes to me with new ideas.
Q How do you prioritise tasks?
A I have four lists:
- Must do today
- Must do this week
- Must do by month end
- Would like to do
Q What is the hardest task you undertake on a daily basis?
A Dedicating time to staff, patients and GPs when my job list keeps growing.
Q How do you motivate staff?
A I believe in listening to ideas from staff and using their input to influence what we do. I know that I can only do my job well because the whole team are all doing their jobs well. It doesn’t matter how many hours staff work or what their role is, they are all equally important to our practice.
Q What is the key to success in keeping patients happy?
A Make sure you listen to their views, opinions and feedback and use them to shape the service you offer. Mistakes happen, but when they do, apologise and learn from them so they don’t happen again.
Q How have you improved the lives of your patients?
A We listen, we learn but most of all we really care. I can’t please everyone all of the time but we aim to offer everyone a safe and reliable service. I hope we have a positive impact on our patients’ lives and health.
Q How do you switch off from work when you leave the office?
A My partner and I walk the dogs every day by the sea or on the downs.
Amanda Sayer works at Lighthouse Medical Practice in Eastbourne, East Sussex, which has 15,000 patients, 12 GPs and more than 40 staff.