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by Anonymous GP partner
5 December 2019

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Wellbeing in practice: Why my practice needs to cut our PM some slack

An anonymous GP partner shares why he asked his staff to lay off the practice manager

Everyone in general practice works very hard. We all know that. We all appreciate what everyone else does, and we make all the right noises about working harmoniously in a team, while secretly thinking, ‘But I work the hardest’. I know I do.

Or did. I’ve had an epiphany after having a bit of a chat with our practice manager. I knew she was busy. Nearly as busy as me, etc. But trying to get through a discussion about QOF progress and seeing her constantly interrupted by staff queries, phone calls, text messages, electronic bleeps announcing more NHS England emails, doctors wondering whether the heating is working, grumpy patients demanding instant managerial gratification, people turning up unannounced expecting her to drop everything for an impromptu meeting, and so on, certainly made me think.

And what it made me think was, 1. This QOF meeting can wait, and 2. Her head must be spinning worse than that last case of vertigo I saw (and admitted).

It’s not like she gets much thanks. Sure, it’s always hard for managers to win popularity contests – it goes with the territory. But the harsh GP landscape these days means that we have to be a lean, mean machine to survive. Which, in turn, leads to us partners putting pressure on our manager to increase income, keep an eye out for expenses and scrutinise our systems.

In other words, we’re insisting that our manager actually manages. And that doesn’t always go down well with her troops. There’s that tendency, when you don’t much like the message, to shoot the messenger. And if there’s one thing worse than being frazzled, then it’s being frazzled while your staff are looking mutinous.

So, once I could persuade her to find a slot where not only was the day job under control but she also wasn’t being pulled into a primary care network (PCN) meeting, or pushed into new build crisis talks, or distracted away to a pre-CQC phone call crisis strategy brainstorm – didn’t I mention these other roles? – we had a bit of a get-together. Just me, her – and every other member of staff in the building.

Basically, I told them what I just told you. I explained what a practice manager has to do, how she manages on our behalf, how she’s pulled in a million different directions and how she can’t be expected to deal with every single little issue that comes up during each day in primary care paradise. I told them, in short, that a manager has to do what a manager has to do. And that, to be blunt, they should cut her some slack.

It seemed to go OK. ‘We get it,’ one or two of them confided in me as they sidled out. ‘Lay off the practice manager.’ Correct. So long as they realise that’s most definitely not ‘lay off’ as in ‘sack’.

Anyway, back to QOF. We still need to finish that meeting.

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