FRCGP (Hon) CIHM FIHM
Bennetts End Surgery, Hemel Hempstead
Sandy is Managing Partner at Bennetts End Surgery and has worked at this large, training practice since 1990. She networks extensively and is passionate about quality and “making a difference” to the patient and carer experience. Sandy is a trustee of the National Association for Patient Participation and contributes to the national growing patient participation campaign and the new NHS Practice Management Network. She is Co-Lead, with Fiona Dalziel, of the RCGP General Practice Foundation Management in General Practice Forum
“Primary care teams are playing an increasingly important role in supporting GPs and improving patient care.”
– Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP Honorary Secretary, November 2009
Multi-professional teams are now a feature of most practices, and one of the great achievements of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has been to support the development of primary healthcare teams. This, together with the increasing complexity of general practice, has meant the need for professional practice management and support of this discipline.
On 5 November 2009, the RCGP launched the General Practice Foundation (GPF). This exciting new initiative, aimed at supporting practice managers, nurses and physicians’ assistants, was launched – appropriately – at the RCGP annual conference in Glasgow, entitled “Excellence in Practice”. Having a foundation within the RCGP is excellent news for practice managers, general practice and, most importantly, patients.
Of course, 5 November is a date remembered in history for many reasons – including, now, for the launch of a groundbreaking initiative that offers general practice nurses, managers and physician assistants the opportunity to be a part of the RCGP. While the GPF is a part of the College, it remains a separate entity and members will not become members of the RCGP. Clearly, however, it is an opportunity for managers working in general practice to have a formal association with the RCGP.
Of particular interest to managers, the GPF will encourage and support continuous quality improvement for the benefit of those we serve – patients and carers – and those professionals working together in general practice. And, as general practice is delivered by dedicated teams, this gives us the opportunity to develop together and will ultimately have a very positive impact on the delivery of quality patient care.
The concept was raised during a practice management development session at the RCGP’s first annual conference in 2007 at Edinburgh. This conference also raised the profile of the RCGP-endorsed Vocational Training Scheme (VTS) for General Practice Managers with the presentation of a short paper entitled Pilots and Pioneers.
This pioneering VTS had piloted in England and Scotland in 2005; in Scotland it continues to this day. The conference paper was presented by Dr Candida Hepworth, a manager and associate trainer in general practice, who subsequently joined the practice manager sub-group of the GPF, which was set up to steer an investigative piece of work.
Also joining the sub-group were other experienced managers and partners, including Kathie Applebee, Fiona Dalziel [see article on page 24] and Sue Hodgetts, Chief Executive of the Institute of Healthcare Management (IHM), all working alongside RCGP Honorary Secretary Dr Maureen Baker.
While it was agreed to explore further the potential of a relationship between the RCGP and other key professional groups in 2007, this was by no means the beginning of such a working relationship for practice team members. Practice nurses and managers have contributed to numerous quality team developments over many years, such as the Quality Practice Award, Quality Team Development, Practice and Provider Accreditation, as well as Carers and Responsiveness initiatives, to name but a few.
Extensive scoping, consultation and market research conducted among each of the professional groups showed that the concept of a non-clinical foundation is widely supported and also has the backing of representatives from the three professions, including the IHM.
In fact, IHM Chief Executive Sue Hodgetts was one of the workshop leaders in 2007 when the idea was suggested. Since then the organisation has been supportive, with members and fellows recognising the importance of understanding the possibilities and challenges we face individually and as a team, and the complex environment within which we, as managers in general practice, work to provide high-quality patient care and services.
The IHM sees the College’s work as complementary to the professional support they are providing, and is planning to discount its own practice manager members’ subscriptions if a member is registered with the GPF. Many shared learning experiences have influenced the GPF initiative, and the time is right for professionals in general practice to learn together.
The vision is to create a forum where professionals can come together to learn and to share ideas. The purpose of the GPF is to enhance patient care by:
- Supporting the professional development of those working in general practice.
- Sharing learning opportunities to develop together – educational materials, bespoke courses and learning media.
- Championing many of the key features of UK general practice, while ensuring future developments positively improve standards of care for patients.
- Collaborating on the developments of policy that impact on general practice.
- Encouraging enhanced team working in general practice.
- Encouraging high-quality professional delivery of care for patients.
All registered practice managers, nurses and physician assistants in the UK are eligible, although options for registration from those working overseas could be reviewed in the future. The GPF will have three sub-groupings within it:
- Forum of Practice Management.
- Forum of Nursing in General Practice.
- Forum of Physician Assistants.
Membership will “go live” in 2010, giving individuals and practice teams the opportunity to register.
A wide range of benefits will be on offer, and members will be joining mainly for education and team-based learning, development and support. In particular, membership provides practice managers with the following:
- An e-portfolio to collect, demonstrating learning and progress.
- Online education modules to support continuing professional development.
- A tailored programme of events created by the UK’s leading practice managers.
- Up-to-date essential knowledge and information relating to general practice.
- Access to online journals and e-newsletters.
- Forums facilitating cross-professional communication with users and GPs.
- Opportunities to contribute to policy influencing general practice in the future with other professionals working in general practice.
Improving patient care
There are also considerable benefits for GPs and for patients. Practice nurses, managers and physician assistants in general practice are playing an increasingly important role in supporting GPs and improving care for patients. Yet their status is sometimes unrecognised, and the peer support and funding they receive for education and professional development can vary considerably.
A foundation that is dedicated to the support and development of these three key groups will provide a more integrated approach and supportive culture for the development of professional practice management. As reiterated in the GPF publicity by Professor Amanda Howe, “It is impossible for any GP, however, skilled they are, to give good care to patients on their own. We can develop ourselves together professionally, rather than working and learning in single-discipline silos”. A sentiment likely to be shared by managers in general practice.