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Five things we learned from Management in Practice London

by Rebecca Gilroy and Costanza Pearce
27 September 2019

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Management in Practice’s one-day event took place yesterday (27 September) at London’s Olympia conference centre.

Delegates had an information-packed day, including lots of tips on how to navigate the emerging Primary Care Network (PCN) model and the importance of wellbeing in a highly pressurised work environment.

Here’s our pick of what we learned at the event.

1. Collaboration is key

Finding a place for social prescribing within PCNs can be challenging, especially when your network covers an average population of between 30,000-50,000 patients. Recruiting new workers into new roles in a new structure can be daunting, but the benefits of social prescribing to your patients and your practice should not be underestimated – especially as PCNs are currently in the middle of hiring social prescribing link workers.

Dr Mohan Sekeram from Merton clinical commissioning group (CCG) and Wandsworth CCG told delegates about his successes with social prescribing, and that investment in this type of healthcare will help to achieve better personalised care.

Use the support networks that are already in place: multidisciplinary teams and social care workers. Ask yourself how you can take this further. Integrate with the community, be prepared to commit a lot of time to your patients and allow patients to have increased control of their lives. All of these actions will reduce the impact on primary and secondary care and improve health quality. Put the work in now to prevent ill health further down the line.

2. Having a contingency plan could save your practice

Graham Leyfield of the financial services provider Wesleyan talked about the business risks that come with running a practice. Do you know your practice’s partnership agreement? What contingency plans are in place for a worth case scenario?

It is useful for practice managers to know what processes they have in place for the inevitable hiccups that come with running a practice, Mr Leyfield told delegates. There will always be threats to your income and funding, risks associated with clinician errors and mistakes and gaps in your knowledge that could leave you vulnerable – and therefore your patients as well.

3. Don’t forget about wellbeing

Staff wellbeing was a key theme of the day, and one question that always arises when it is discussed in a healthcare capacity is resilience. However, chair of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing Dr Paul Litchfield made the distinction between when resilience is needed, and when it is taken advantage of.

‘I think we sometimes treat our people like that in the workplace. We think we’ll train them in resilience so we can load more and more onto them,’ he told delegates.

‘Well, that’s wrong. Yes, it’s praiseworthy to promote people’s individual wellbeing, to encourage them to do the right thing, to give them resources to help the to do the right thing and organisations can do a great deal in that. But if we stop there, I would argue that’s a dereliction of duty.’

4. ‘Good enough’ is good enough

Making sure your staff are well looked after is not enough. Often overlooked and overburdened, practice managers need to make sure they look after themselves, too.

Business consultant Andy Briggs made a strong case for putting your own wellbeing at the heart of staff wellbeing within your practice. He said: ‘You may be the person who goes around last thing at night and says to the doctors, ‘haven’t you got a home to go to?’ But who tells you? Who sees the emails you send at 10.30 in the evening and says, ‘shouldn’t you be reading a book? Talking to your partner? Putting your kids to bed at 7 o’clock?’ Who’s looking after you?’

Mr Briggs talked about the tendency for practice managers to be high achievers and perfectionists, but he believes that you should work to a principle of ‘good enough’. Your standards are probably much higher than everyone else’s, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always meet your own high expectations. ‘Good enough’ is good enough, he said.

In the closing session of the day, author, researcher and coach John Higgins echoed this theme. The healthcare sector needs to dispel the myths that ‘perfection is the only state worth pursuing’, he told delegates.

5. Be a chameleon

The pace of change in primary care at the moment is dizzying. Burying your head in the sand might seem like a tempting prospect, but with change comes opportunity. There’s been a lot of focus on primary care, with the spotlight firmly on the advent of PCNs, and all eyes are on the sector’s success or failure.

In this rapidly changing landscape, practice managers need to be adaptable and forward-thinking. As practices begin to collaborate more with each other, it’s clear that your role will shift and stretch, so embracing these changes and making the most of them is the only way you’ll thrive.

Mr Briggs gave his own top tips for survival: Be innovative. Delegate. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to try something new and fail – that’s the only way you’ll learn how to succeed.