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by Valeria Fiore
6 July 2018

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‘I believe in empowering the workforce’

Practice manager Kate Carr tells Valeria Fiore that keeping The Crookes Practice in Sheffield thriving takes determination, grit and a desire to make a difference

Q What do you love about your job?

A That I can make a difference. I’m also a partner at The Crookes Practice and involved in much of the decision-making.

Sometimes in primary care I feel the decision-making is quite drawn out, but here we tend to make decisions on the spot.

Q How do you keep your practice thriving?

A I believe in developing and empowering the workforce. Two middle managers have just completed the Institute for Leadership and Management Level 5 course, and a third is about to start. All our reception staff have NVQs and three of our nurses have completed the advanced nurse practitioner course.

I am training to be a healthcare quality improvement team coach at the Sheffield Microsystem Coaching Academy. This involves going into other primary care settings to coach and support practice staff and GPs who want to make quality improvements within their own practices. I have started coaching my own team and that is proving very rewarding.

Q What inspires you?

A Our practice is open from 7.45amto 10pm on weekdays, 9.45am to 6pm on Saturdays and 9.45am to 2pm on Sundays, and that was something I helped develop with the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund. Receiving that money to offer more service availability was important to me — it makes a difference.

It inspires me to do things like that.

Q What should practice managers be aware of if they want to extend their opening hours?

A They need resources, because you cannot run services on a shoestring. I had to advertise for additional staff because we open so early and my daytime staff could not work until 10pm.My advice is make sure you recruit the right people, that your figures are correct, and that you advertise the extended opening hours so patients know that the service is there.

Q What projects do you have for the future?

A Last year, we put in a bid for core capital funding to expand the practice and we have gone to the next level of that. At the moment, we have 10 consulting rooms and we want to expand to the lower ground.

That would ease pressure and help us work with the five practices in the neighbourhood team we are part of. Although we are not yet working fully at scale, we sometimes share staff and resources and will hopefully share back-office functions in the future.

Q What are the biggest challenges you face as a practice manager?

A The shortage of GPs and practice nurses always keeps me on my toes, but also what patients expect from us is becoming more and more demanding. It’s a hard balancing act.

Q What are your biggest achievements as a practice manager?

A Becoming a partner was a great achievement.

Beyond that, I was recognised as Practice Manager of the Year at the National Primary Care Awards 2016 and Practice Manager of the Year at the Towergate Care Awards in 2017.

Q How can GP practices work more efficiently?

A We could share more back-office functions. Practices are not always good at working together. One thing I tell managers is, ‘Why do we all sit in separate offices reading the same contracts or producing the same policies? Why don’t we just work together better? One of us could read the contracts and give feedback to the others while someone else focuses on policies.’ I don’t know why there is reluctance to working collaboratively.

Collaboration is the future of general practice, but it is a big step from independent contractors to learning to work together.

Kate Carr is practice manager at The Crookes Practice in Sheffield and director of Primary Care Sheffield