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Market management: be proud of your work and your practice

5 June 2008

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Cathryn Bateman
Consultant Editor, MiP

Welcome to the summer issue of Management in Practice! Wonderfully, we have sunshine at last. I don’t know about you, but sunshine always gives me a bit of a lift and helps me think that perhaps things aren’t quite so bad after all.

We have the first of this year’s conferences to look forward to – MiP Manchester on 10 June, followed by London in September before the final event in Birmingham in October. Do try and get to one of the events – they provide a great networking opportunity. I am sure there will be plenty to discuss following the raised profile of general practice over the last few months.

Indeed, to quote the British Medical Association (BMA) this week:

“The past couple of years have been extremely challenging for general practice. Press coverage has been overwhelmingly negative, and we have come under sustained attack as a profession. Polyclinics are already being developed across the country, regardless of whether they are actually needed. The number of commercial providers winning Alternative Provider Medical Services contracts is rapidly growing and, at the same time, GP practice funding is under threat. I anticipate that the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee, which keeps so many practices afloat, will come under renewed pressure this year, and we need to get the widest possible support if we are to stop our practices being defunded.”(1)

Did I really say things weren’t so bad? Reading a quote such as this really does bring you back down to earth. However, we can try to redress the balance, and look at improving the way that we market ourselves in general practice. In my opinion, it’s an area we don’t do particularly well in, for a number of reasons, though primarily because we have never before seen the need to market ourselves.

Healing campaign
Patients are generally loyal to their doctors, but that could be set to change if we don’t try to do something about this negativity. The BMA is suggesting we engage in their “Support Your Surgery” campaign, and is urging us to explain to our patients exactly what impact the government’s plans will have on their local surgery, and to encourage them to sign a petition highlighting how much they value the service provided.

I believe we need to challenge our comfort zones and change our culture. I appreciate we don’t have the resources or the marketing experience that, for instance, Virgin has, but we do have a captive audience. So let’s tell our patients about the things we do well and urge them to look at the real substance of general practice – quality and continuity, doctors who know them and who will be there next week, next year and the year after. Let’s join in the campaign – and keep campaigning.

Countdown to controversy …
So, off the soapbox now, what’s going on in this issue? Well, controversy is certainly the name of the game. We have the results of our latest online survey on extended hours, to which your response was excellent. While the results are pretty much as I would have expected, there were one or two surprises. Are the results as you would have expected?

Another hot topic – and controversial subject – is that of the environment. Simon Carvell considers how we in general practice could reduce our carbon footprint and our contribution to climate change – perhaps we should be condensing our hours?

Finally, Stephen Humphreys takes the opportunity to challenge the opinion of Dr Kieran Sweeney, with regards to an article he wrote for Management in Practice about the politics of primary care late last year. I think it’s fair to say that Stephen is clear on the political direction within the NHS, whether he – or we – likes it or not.

Happy reading.

1. Mailing from BMA Support Your Surgery Campaign – we need your help! Ref. 6730089.