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Event elation sparks a darker debate on the future for practice managers

1 May 2007

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Cathryn Bateman
Consultant Editor
E [email protected]

I would like to open by thanking everyone who attended the Management in Practice Event in Manchester on 1 May – our second conference for practice managers – for their warm welcome and participation, and also for their feedback since the event (see page 46 for a summary of what took place that day).

Feedback is invaluable in the planning of future Events, and we will be sure to take those comments forward when making plans for the London Event, which will take place in September, and the Birmingham Event in October.

In the main, I took two significant points away with me from Manchester’s Event. First, and maybe I am reading too much into this here, the apparent disregard for any involvement with Connecting for Health (CfH), and secondly, the fragile position that practice management finds itself in – and I shall qualify that point in a moment.

Disconnecting from Health?
With regards to CfH – and this is said with no disrespect to Dr Gillian Braunold, who gave an excellent presentation on the challenges of data-sharing now facing general practices – it appeared that few managers were willing to listen, with the majority of delegates heading for the alternative presentation.

Perhaps this was purely circumstantial, and the alternative presentation was of particular interest? Or were delegates voting with their feet? With recent bad press, and with some GPs feeling that CfH is a very expensive white elephant, I have to wonder.

Future imperfect?
The other, and perhaps more personal point, is the future for practice managers. During the Event’s panel session, in which delegates fed questions for a group of specialists and the wider audience to consider, the future of practice management was debated. I appreciate that this point has reared its head before, and perhaps to no avail, but could the arena be a little different now?

Currently, there is much talk of “supersurgeries” and collaboration – indeed, collaboration will be essential if practice-based commissioning is to be successful. The panel considered whether, in this brave new world, it will actually be feasible to have a practice manager – who is, by default, a generalist – in every practice, particularly if several surgeries are working closely together.

Perhaps we should be looking at what we do well, and base our personal development plans on extending these areas to ensure that we will be able to compete with our peers? It’s certainly something to think about. Indeed, in his article on provider services on page 26, Dr Peter Godbehere is already talking about pooling back-office resources with his neighbouring surgeries – is this a concept that’s easily transferable to general practice?

Get back to us!
We always welcome readers’ comments and opinions – perhaps you’d like to share your views on the points that I have referred to, or any of the issues raised in our featured articles?

In this issue, topics include the ongoing debate over GPs’ pay, as well as developing IT technology and employment law. We’ve also launched a new “Ethics” section – on page 34, Dr Clare Gerada considers: “What should a practice manager do if they suspect a GP of abusing alcohol or drugs?” If you have any ethical dilemmas you’d like to see considered in the future, please write to us and let us know. Any comments, queries or suggestions can be submitted to the Management in Practice team via [email protected]