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Look outside healthcare to hire practice managers, delegates told

by Rima Evans
22 May 2023

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GP practices struggling to recruit practice managers should consider looking for candidates outside healthcare, the Management in Practice conference heard last week.

Martin Turner, practice manager at Staveleigh Medical Centre, Cheshire who is also a PCN manager, told delegates that routinely recruiting from the same sector when you are finding it tricky to find new staff can sometimes ‘be a trap’.

‘Hiring from the same places can mean you attract people with all the same ideas,’ he warned, ‘so it’s not always the best option’.

‘But diversifying and looking beyond the norm’ can bring in fresh perspectives. It can also help build a new generation of managers within primary care, he added.

Mr Turner, who won PCN manager of the year 2022 at the General Practice Awards in December, and moved from the recruitment industry to the health sector in 2019, said there were a number of ways to develop a pipeline of new management talent within general practice.  

‘Practice managers need to be allowed to develop and take on different challenges,’ he said. ‘It’s also important we keep learning new skills and are encouraged to attend formal training or management courses.’

He added: ‘My advice to practice managers on what steps they can take themselves to keep developing is widen your exposure and look at what is going on beyond your own practice. Go and find out about what neighbouring practices are doing, as well as practices around the country.’

Mr Turner said social media can be a useful tool for discovering what other surgeries are up to and what’s happening in the sector.

‘It can also be reassuring,’ he added, ‘when you see that the problems you face are the same problems faced by other practices too.’

Mr Turner, who became PCN manager at Stalybridge, Dukinfield and Mossley PCN in 2021, also spoke about how to make the most of holding the dual role of practice manager and PCN manager.

He admitted there were drawbacks, including having increased workload, more meetings to attend (leading to meeting fatigue), and email overload, but that there were significant rewards too.

‘I find it has increased job satisfaction and I find doing both roles rewarding. For example, it has helped my own personal development and it’s hugely enjoyable to see other staff develop too.

‘In addition, there can be a positive impact on patient care. The work I do at the PCN and the insight I gain has helped me become a better practice manager and I believe has even contributed to improved QOF results for my practice.’

Mr Turner shared the following tips for successfully managing the two jobs:

  • Learn how to delegate
  • Change your mindset so you more readily accept you are not always right
  • Reflect and learn from your mistakes (which you will inevitably make but that’s ok)
  • Pick your battles
  • Grow your resilience since you are higher up the chain of management and will face more challenging situations
  • Don’t just plan, you also have to execute and deliver.

Mr Turner concluded: ‘Although PCNs can act as if the practices work for them, I think it’s the reverse and PCNs should work for practices. And, of course, both PCNs and practices should work for the patient.’

Register here for the free Management in Practice event in Manchester on 27 June

It’s not too late to enter the General Practice Awards 2023. The closing date deadline is June 2. See here for a list of the categories you can enter, including Practice Manager of the Year and Receptionist/Reception Team of the Year.