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by Rebecca Gilroy
30 September 2019

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A view from Management in Practice London: How much is too much to ask of practice managers?

This year’s Management in Practice conference, held at London’s Olympia Conference Centre on 26 September, had one inescapable theme: wellbeing. Whether that’s in staff or patients, it’s an unavoidable part of practice life up and down the country.

Wellness culture is a massive trend at the moment, and as a result the word ‘wellness’ gets bandied around a lot. A negative consequence of this been that its definition has become somewhat lost. Wellness is often incorrectly conflated only with self-care and mindfulness – concepts that are very much open to interpretation.

But wellness is far more individual; it is an all-encompassing state that covers everything from physical, mental and emotion health. It’s much more than having a healthy and functional mind and body – in many ways, poor wellbeing can be as impactful as poor physical health on quality of life.

It’s old news that retention rates are low across the health service. Many professionals are leaving the sector prematurely as more and more work is placed on their shoulders and increasing amounts of responsibility laid at their feet. Burnout, stress and working extensively long hours are some of the main concerns that push people out of practice management.

While the Department of Health and Social Care enjoys a big primary care reshuffle once every few years, there have been few studies into the impact these structural changes have on career longevity, often making it feel like it’s not even considered.

When a new structure is put in place, whether that’s in the shape of a Primary Care Network or another CCG merger, roles shift, are made anew or disappear entirely – but the workload doesn’t. More often than not, it’s passed across to someone else.

Practice managers have been taking on more and more responsibilities, and this is almost always accompanied by a message to build your own resilience. That you must take it upon yourself to develop the skills necessary to cope with a workload that probably shouldn’t have been given to you in the first place.

Not only do you have to keep abreast of the latest QoF data, understand complaint procedures, get to grips with new technology and structure services such as social prescribing – all of which were topics covered at the event – but you also have to manage your own stress and be on the look out for it in your colleagues. It can be dismissed as a wishy-washy subject, but taking steps to consider wellbeing in your practice can be a manageable and effective way of taking care of yourself and others, and importantly keeping people invested in their jobs and keen to stay.

If we consider practice managers to be ‘Jacks of all trades’, as explained by speaker Andy Briggs on the day, when is enough enough? As a relatively new role in primary care, it’s pertinent to ask yourself how much a practice manager is capable of taking on, and how much is too much to ask.