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by Isabel Shaw
8 January 2020

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Wellbeing in Practice – Dr Johnny Marshall: ‘The NHS needs to recognise high workload’

As part of our new series on wellbeing, reporter Isabel Shaw asks NAPC president Dr Johnny Marshall how to tackle practice manager burnout

To mark the launch of our wellbeing in practice initiative, which aims to shine a light on how practice managers can achieve a better work-life balance, we’ve been speaking to practice managers and primary care leaders around the country to see how they do it. 

President of the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), Dr Johnny Marshall, took time out of his busy schedule to speak to Management in Practice.

As a GP himself at Westongrove Primary Care Home, in Buckinghamshire, Dr Marshall has had first-hand experience of the stresses that come with working in a surgery and a true understanding of the ‘critical’ role a practice manager holds within a practice.

‘The expertise they bring is invaluable, alongside their clinical leadership within their practice,’ he says. ‘So it’s concerning that [practice managers] feel [stressed and burnt out], we absolutely need them to feel confident and happy in what they do as that will lead to progression and change in general practice.’

‘Reducing some of their burdens’

As Dr Marshall’s success indicates – namely, leading the NAPC’s work supporting the development of primary care homes and primary care networks across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes – he has a keen interest in the advancement of primary care.

He warns it could be halted as a result of practice manager burnout. ‘If we have this fundamental block where [practice managers] are not feeling engaged and finding joy in work then we’re going to struggle to deliver,’ he says. 

The NHS is undergoing rapid change through the implementation of its long-term plan, which sets to move the NHS towards a population health approach and greater integrated working as well as a greater emphasis on community services and primary care networks. Such change subsequently means big changes to the management process.

To alleviate practice manager stress and provide emotional support, Dr Marshall suggests practice managers should play a part in this change. This could be done either by ‘reducing some of their burdens’ or ‘creating support at a local level […] to support practice managers emotionally and also promote learning and capability so that they can carry out their role more effectively’. 

‘You cannot just create a policy and expect it to succeed’

‘The NHS needs to recognise the high workload’, he says. ‘You cannot just create a policy and expect it to succeed, you have to look at how you support the very people who are going to be delivering it by creating emotional support right now.’

He also highlights the importance of a support network on an individual level, ‘I know when I go around the country there seems to be a great connection between practice managers at a local level I think that they get a lot from it. 

‘It’s also important to look after yourself outside of the practice, recognising the importance of mental health, whether that’s through physical activity or just taking time to unwind – do things you enjoy doing.’