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Practice Manager of the Year 2023: Introducing the finalists

by Emily Roberts
10 November 2023

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The seven finalists in the Practice Manager of the Year Award, part of the General Practice Awards 2023 have much to feel proud about. Management in Practice shares what innovations and improvements they put in place in their surgeries

The winner of the prestigious Practice Manager of the Year 2023 award will be announced on December 8.

Presentations will be made at the General Practice Awards 2023, which honour and showcase the incredible hard work and dedication of individuals and teams working in primary care, during a gala dinner and ceremony held at the Novotel London West hotel.

The host for this year’s awards is comedian and actor Miles Jupp, who has starred in TV sitcoms including Rev and The Thick of It and appears on shows such as Have I Got News For You and QI.

The Practice Manager of the Year award, sponsored by X-on Health, seeks to recognise a practice manager who has made an outstanding contribution to their surgery’s performance in the last 18 months.

The finalists are as follows:

Spencer Casey – business and strategic manager, Probus Surgery, Truro

Since starting two years ago, Spencer has helped the practice grow and improve, changing how things were traditionally run.

Patients are now given appointments based on clinical need rather than availability using a multidisciplinary team hub approach. This has freed up clinical time and resulted in several hundred extra GP appointments a month becoming available. All acute cases are seen the same day and all routine appointments are seen within 10 days. 

Spencer has made changes that have proved lucrative for the practice. For example, the surgery has become a travel vaccination centre – the only one in Cornwall – creating a new revenue stream. And he has bought in innovative tech to improve performance of work such as QOF, generating an extra £30k of income.

Investment in staff hasn’t been overlooked. Under Spencer’s leadership, staff pay rates have improved so the practice is a market leader. And he has drawn up a staff charter based on mutual respect of each other and the patients, which sets down values and expectations and has improved the practice’s working environment.

Spencer has demonstrated leadership in green initiatives. One was aimed at making best use of solar panels and now means the practice is now 65% self-sufficient. And an investment into ‘green’ printers is saving the practice nearly £50k over the next five years.

Dee Chennenahalli – managing partner/practice manager, Pinfold Medical Practice, County Durham

Dee is a devoted, hardworking practice manager who has ambitious ideas for rural practices to be at the heart and hub of the community.

In the past year, Dee secured funding for a portable cabin to be housed on the surgery’s site, giving the practice an extra consultation room and separate waiting area. This has been used to house ARRS staff, including a first contact physio and mental health nurses, enabling the practice to increase the range of services it can offer patients.

She has also secured a partnership with Sunderland University Medical School, so students can get experience of working in primary care, as part of her vision to provide training and inspiration to the next generation of health care professionals.

A camera crew visited the practice as part of a Channel 4 / More 4 documentary focusing on rural GP practices – an opportunity secured by Dee to highlight the struggles rural practices face.

Dee has introduced a ‘go green’ initiative, arranging for an electric charging point to be installed, solar panels to be fitted and encouraging staff to cycle or walk to work. The practice has also committed to recycling insulin pens and encourages patients to order medication online instead of in writing.

Caitlin Clarke – former business manager, The Beaches Medical Centre, Great Yarmouth

Caitlin overhauled the practice’s appointment system at the Beaches, introducing an urgent care team model that utilises the skills of a multi-disciplinary team for signposting, with support and supervision from a duty GP.

The system led to better access to appointments for patients and a reduction in the ‘did not attend’ rate from 12% to 9%. Her efforts also resulted in the telephone queue decreasing from an average of 30 minutes to four minutes.

Staff wellbeing has improved thanks to innovations led by Caitlin, including the opening of a staff gym, which is free to use, and gardens where staff can enjoy their lunch or relax during breaks. Staff were involved with renovating the outside areas as a team exercise.

A different approach to recruitment offering flexible working and protected time for learning has seen the practice moving from being reliant on locum GPs to employing three salaried GPs in 2023, as well as three advanced nurse practitioners and a lead clinical pharmacist.

Caitlin also helped enhance patient care. Not only has access improved but she introduced new services, such as a menopause group clinic and a bereavement service, where a bereavement officer is available to speak to any patients contacting the practice to inform of a death.

Caitlin has since moved roles and is now business manager at Castle Partnership, Norwich and managing partner at Fleggburgh Surgery in Great Yarmouth.

Lesley Hyde – practice manager, The Arch Medical Practice, Manchester

Lesley hasn’t been in post that long but she has managed to guide her practice out of the darker days of the Covid-19 pandemic and revitalise the surgery by introducing innovative and unique ideas.

For example, Lesley single-handedly rebuilt the appointment system to fit with patient demand (accommodating more face-to-face appointments post pandemic), and paying attention to patient demographics, GP partner preferences, staff preferences, and experience.

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A clear colour coding system is nearly 100% compliant with GP Appointments Data (GPAD) mapping, up from 53% before she joined. This allows staff to clearly see the appointment spread, availability, and makes it easier to understand where to book slots for different kinds of appointments such as calls or GP follow-ups. With workload sharing more clearly evident and capacity more visible, GP morale has subsequently increased.

Lesley has overseen nearly a 20% reduction in daily telephone calls to the surgery, as appointments that are bookable online have expanded, resulting in a 13% increase in calls answered within 40 rings.

There’s a greater focus on morale boosting activities among the wider team, with Lesley organising social as well as educational or learning events.

She has also gone above and beyond for the community, arranging a women’s day at a mosque to encourage people to register with a GP and promote health messages; and campaigning for disabled parking bays outside the surgery.

Rachael Lankshear – practice manager, Brunel Medical Practice, Torquay

Rachael joined Brunel in 2019 and was faced with a dedicated but exhausted team, overwhelmed by workload and recruitment challenges.

Now, thanks to Rachael’s efforts, the practice is a vibrant workplace that has successfully addressed work pressures.

A new appointment system developed by Rachel together with cloud-based telephony, health navigation, and a specialised in-house practice team has made work pressures more manageable, which in turn has made hiring clinicians and GP partners easier.

That said Rachael has taken an innovative approach to recruitment, hiring for remote salaried GP roles even ahead of the pandemic. She quickly identified the challenges that comes with having both a site-based and remote team and drew up robust governance processes to ensure both work in an integrated way, covering all work streams and keeping workflow steady even when team members are on leave or ill. Having those strong processes in place has also given the practice the opportunity to employ remote GP locum support when needed.

Rachael believes a happy team offers compassionate care, so she has introduced ‘wellbeing days’ for staff so they can take time out to do something they enjoy as well as a staff family fun day, the first of which was held last year and will now be an annual fixture.

Rachael, who works for her local PCN too, is also involved in initiatives to benefit care home patients and asylum seekers.

Brenda Nasr – practice manager, Earle Road Medical Centre, Liverpool

Brenda began her career in the NHS almost 50 years ago and remains as energetic in her 70s as she was when she started. She has shown a deep commitment to advocating for and supporting patients from diverse backgrounds and deprived areas.

Recently, Brenda successfully engaged with women in hard-to-reach communities to raise awareness of breast cancer symptoms, promote take up of mammograms and encourage individuals to seek support if they have concerns. She worked with influential people within the women’s own communities to gain support and arranged various breast cancer seminars and events as well as helped campaigned for a mobile breast screening service to make screening more accessible.

This has led to an uptake in screening, despite the language and cultural barriers faced.

Brenda has also supported the mental health and physical/emotional wellbeing of children and young people through a four-year project to secure free gym passes for local schools as well as free swimming passes for children during the summer holidays.

In addition, she has campaigned to have health information leaflets translated into various languages spoken in the local community and for free bus passes for patients struggling financially who need to attend hospital appointments.

Colette Shipley – practice business manager, Newlands Medical Centre, Middlesbrough

Colette has been practice manager at Newlands Medical Centre for more than 20 years and her longevity of service has provided real stability for the practice and partners. She will soon be retiring after 35 years and dedication to NHS services.

Managing a practice that is in the fifth most deprived local authority area in England and has a high rate of patients who are non-English speaking can mean patient engagement is challenging.

However, Colette has instigated and overseen many pilots to improve patient care and tackle inequalities. This has included introducing specific appointments for non-English speaking patients; introducing coffee mornings and health promotion events for patients with learning disabilities, which has increased uptake of annual checks to more than 80%; and helping the surgery become a  ‘No fear’ practice, offering a range of support measures like mother and daughter appointments to increase uptake of cervical screening.

Colette has championed improvements in domestic violence awareness and supported the practice to become an accredited ‘veteran friendly’ practice, the first in Middlesbrough to achieve this.

Colette’s work in promoting a supportive and motivational work environment has meant the practice has achieved the accolade of an Investors in People silver award.

We wish all the finalists the very best of luck!

The full list of all those shortlisted in all the categories can be seen on the General Practice Awards website.

Book a ticket to the awards ceremony here. And follow along on the night via our Instagram and X accounts to get the live updates on the winners as they’re announced.