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by Kerry Holmes
14 June 2010

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MiP Manchester: tough challenges, collective solutions

Kerry Holmes, Management in Practice’s Editor-in-Chief, was at the Bridgewater Hall last week, where the first MiP Event of the year took place. She shares her highlights of the day …

A stereotypically grey and showery day did not dampen the enthusiasm of delegates at our Management in Practice Event in Manchester last week (8 June 2010).

This year, while retaining the exclusive focus on non-clinical issues for practice managers, these events have been opened up to GPs and partners too.

The challenging climate of today’s general practice means that now, more than ever, shared solutions and joint working will be necessary for practices to prosper in the difficult times head. This was the key theme of the Manchester Event, reflected both in the day’s atmosphere and content.

A high turnout of more than 400 practice managers and GPs arrived at the Bridgewater Hall to hear the opening speech from Dr James Kingsland, President of the National Association of Primary Care.

Healthcare workers have received a boost from the new coalition government’s pledge to single out the healthcare sector for growth, but Dr Kingsland reminded delegates that this must be set alongside the continuing call for 15–20% efficiency saving and the demands on the system presented by the ageing population.

Practice-based commissioning will remain, Dr Kingsland believes, although it will not be quite the same, and an independent NHS board will be brought in. More detail will be revealed in next week’s Emergency Budget, but change is likely to happen quickly.

Another key issue for GPs is revalidation. Professor Peter Rubin, Chair of the General Medical Council, talked through the background and rationale behind this historic proposal, which was originally to be rolled out nationally next year. However, new Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s concerns about the ability of UK general practice to deliver the proposal means that more pilot studies must now be carried out until 2012.

Chris O’Gorman, Programme Director, Quality and Efficiency, NHS Manchester, looked for good news in the face of all these challenges. He pointed out the continuity between past and present strategy, and argued that “policy mantras of the past are still relevant” when looking to achieve QIPP (Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention).

Many of the speakers and workshops looked at how to make practices work better in the current climate of efficiency and saving. Both Dave Hall, from NatWest, and Philip Byrne, from Brabners Chaffe Street Solicitors, told delegates that practice managers and GPs must look to the future and protect themselves with regard to leases, succession planning and business strategy.

Difficult times demand collective solutions, as several presentations suggested. In a session that identified good communication strategies, practice managers Caroline Kerby and Fiona Hall, both proactive members of the NHS Practice Management Network, demonstrated how practices could join forces to become more efficient, by sharing staff and protocols, and through increased local networking.

Maureen Baker, an experienced GP and former honorary secretary of the RCGP, rounded up the conference with a talk on the management implications of federated practices. Maureen, who is the RCGP’s Lead for Federations, provided details of a toolkit on this model of general practice that is being produced by the RCGP with the support of The King’s Fund.

Adopting this approach will enable practices to share commissioning responsibilities and make internal referrals, leading to improved patient relationships and reduced costs, said Maureen. She described how practices could come together to provide safer and more flexible “joined up” care within the community by producing a localised “skills map” of services.

The recent change of government made for some interesting discussions among speakers and delegates. As the coalition progresses its policies, there will undoubtedly be more to talk about at the upcoming Management in Practice Events, to be held in London (The Business Design Centre, Islington, 1 September 2010 ) and Birmingham (NEC, 20 October 2010).

Click here for slide presentations from the Manchester Event on 8 June.

Click here for details of upcoming events and to register.