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Revealed: nearly half of practice managers have been in the job more than a decade

by Costanza Pearce
8 May 2019

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Practice managers are remaining in their jobs for long periods of time, despite the growing demands of the role, a new study has found.

Research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that 48% of the 1,424 practice managers surveyed across the UK had been in the role for ten years or more, and 22% for between five and 10 years.

Practice managers are committed to their practices the study, carried out in 2017, showed  with 34% having been in their current practice over ten years and 20% for five to 10 years.

Despite the pressures of the job and the ‘discontent’ expressed in the survey, as many as 81% of practice managers said they were planning to stay in their practice for the next year.

Practice Managers Association (PMA) advisory panel member Tracy Dell said she had never stayed in a job for more than five years before she joined her current practice, Plane Trees Group Practice in Halifax.

She said: ‘I always believed it was good to move on, push myself and experience new challenges instead of staying comfortable and safe. However, nearly 16 years later I am still here.

‘The practice manager role is constantly evolving so for me, it feels like I am in a new job every few years.’

Ms Dell added that the job is ‘not for the faint-hearted’ but that working in the NHS is ‘extremely rewarding’.

She said: ‘As long as we continue to be innovative leaders, embrace change and drive the practice forwards and as long as we are valued by our partners, then we can continue to enjoy a long and fulfilling career.’

A sustainable workforce?

The study also reveals a slightly older workforce, with more than two-thirds of practice managers, 65%, being over 50 and a quarter, 25%, in their forties.

Study author Dr Jennifer Gosling said this may be because practice management is often a second career, adding that this raises concerns about workforce sustainability.

She said: ‘A large group are likely to retire in the next few years but most practice staff, including practice managers, are likely to be local.

‘This means replacing a practice manager will probably depend on the local labour market’.

‘Training is an issue’

The study revealed that as well as having many years’ experience, the majority of practice managers are able to take a leadership role both within and outside of their practice, with more than two-thirds attending CCG meetings.

However, the research also reveals that practice managers feel a need for further training and development.

More than a third of respondents, 35%, said they would like training in quality improvement and writing a business case.

A similar number, 34%, wanted training in risk management, 30% in data analysis and 28% in financial management.

Dr Gosling said: ‘Training is an issue for practice managers. They clearly want training but have to rely on the GPs to fund it.

‘They are not part of the NHS management training scheme and nor do NHS management trainees spend time in general practice.’

She added: ‘That might be something to think about in the future which could help break down some of the barriers and increase the understanding between the different cultures in primary and secondary care.’

According to the study, the five skills practice managers themselves believe are most important in the role are: communication, 69%; financial management, 53%; personnel management, 45%; time management, 34%; and team building, 31%.