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by Isabel Shaw
6 December 2019

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Wellbeing in Practice: How should practice manager burnout be tackled?

Practice managers around the country have been reporting cases of burnout as a result of their excessive workloads. In response to this, Management in Practice has launched a wellbeing campaign – called wellbeing in practice – to bring to light some of the issues practice managers are facing and to promote their mental health.  

At the Kings Fund Annual Conference last week, Management in Practice asked a board of medical experts how to go about solving the pertinent issue of practice manager burnout.

We spoke to Dr Afsana Safa, a GP and governing body member of NHS Central London Clinical Commissioning Group and Professor Tom Bourne, a consultant gynecologist at Queen Charlotte and Chelsea hospital, who both had strong but slightly conflicting views on the subject. 

Dr Afsana Safa – ‘No one asks them if they’re okay’

‘In [my] own area, Westminster Central, practice managers use forums to talk about what they are experiencing’, Dr Safa explains. 

‘Although this is good, we do not want to silo them off so they only talk amongst themselves, it’s really important that they share their concerns more widely and have the support from everyone else.’ 

She also noted the apparent lack of concern for practice manager’s welfare within practices. ‘No one asks them if they’re okay. Whereas medical staff are a bit more protected and helped, the people behind the scenes are just left – it really strikes me.’ 

She also acknowledged that we should not be relying on forums and supportive staff to get GP practice managers through this stressful period: ‘I don’t want to put the ownership of finding the solution on the [practice manager], when the whole system is falling down on them.

‘Tackling [practice manager] workload is a whole issue on its own and really needs its own conference to discuss what can be done to solve it.’ 

Professor Tom Bourne – ‘Resilience alone is not the answer’

Professor Bourne said that ‘simply talking on a forum’, is not going to solve the issue: ‘Establishing forums and talking is just a panacea for fixing a system that really isn’t good enough. It doesn’t make the fact you are overworked and overstressed go away, which is causing the burnout in the first place.

‘You’ve got to fix the issue and start recognising that the workload for [practice managers] is something they cannot cope with.’

Professor Bourne stressed that although resilience is a good quality for practice managers to have ‘resilience alone is not the answer’. 

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