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by Anne Crandles
10 October 2011

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Moving on


Practice Management Adviser
Boroughloch Medical Practice, Edinburgh

Is it just me, or is there a lot more practice manager movement at the moment? With so much job-hopping recently, filling practice management posts has been a bit like trying to complete a solitaire puzzle.

The reasons for the vacancies have been varied – retirements, practice restructures – and have provided opportunities for established practice managers to move to pastures new while remaining within his/her area of expertise and for assistant practice managers to step into full-blown management roles.

Inevitably, this has come with varying degrees of planning. Several of my colleagues and I have been working with practices aiding succession planning, mentoring new managers and supporting GPs through the recruitment process where there has not been a practice manager in situ.

Often the GPs don’t know where to start, where to advertise, what they need (as opposed to want!) or what the salary levels are. Also they have absolutely no idea about employment law – no, you cannot advertise for “an experienced” practice manager!

Given how pivotal the manager’s role is to the success – or otherwise – of the practice, it is interesting to discover how little managers’ employers actually know about the role – a fact that will probably not surprise many practice managers.

Succession planning is really just a form of business continuity planning. Ask yourself: what would happen if you suddenly could not go to work? Would anyone be able to step into your shoes? How would this person know what needed to be done?

Do you have a list of tasks you carry out on a daily/weekly/ monthly/ quarterly/annual basis? You would be amazed to discover how often these checklists do not exist. And what about written guidance on how to carry out these tasks – payroll, drawings, paying bills, arranging staff training?

Is your job description up to date? Does it accurately reflect everything you do? If you wanted to be really organised, how about drawing up a person specification? After all, who knows better than you the skills that are required for your job?

Add to these the attributes of an excellent practice manager – no doubt using words such as approachable, professional, committed, self-motivated, honest, a sense of humour and masochistic!

To complete the job pack, is there a practice application form? Does someone know where to get these, eg, the secretaries, the assistant practice manager? The same questions apply to the short-listing documentation, suggested interview questions, presentation topics and candidate-scoring proforma. Hopefully these are not just stored on the manager’s laptop.

Who would know where best to place the advert – the local paper, the intranet or the local practice manager network? And do your staff know how to go about this?

This would be only the tip of the knowledge management iceberg. What about passwords, staff birthdays, personal facts about staff that impact on their work attendance/performance, which members of the team work well together, favourite places for practice nights out (the ones that give regular discounts)…

We all have contacts listed on our PCs – but these are only half the story. What about those useful people and network links that you have in your diary or Blackberry – the practice manager with expertise in staff appraisal, the best person to ask about IT or the helpful contact in the local hospital’s outpatient department? All of this information must be written down, made explicit and accessible.

If all of this is sorted not only can you tick off both succession planning and a vital part of the practice’s contingency planning, but you will also have an impressive set of documents detailing just how important you are to the practice. Not that it was ever in doubt!