Management in Practice is speaking to a series of PMs on the front-line about what being a practice manager means to them.
Editor Nora Elias talks to Daniel Vincent about the challenges practice management poses and the future of the profession.
Q. How has being a practice manager changed since you first started out in the profession?
From my point of view, I don’t feel the role has changed that much in the time I have been in post. I have always had to juggle multiple challenges and shifting priorities from day one in the job. The biggest change for me has been the transition from manager to leader – I try my hardest not to be a solution provider; instead a coaching and mentor to empower the team to reach our shared goals.
Q. When did you begin working as a practice manager and how did you get into the role to start with?
I became a practice manager by accident. I took an IT role in a freshly commissioned ‘Darzi Centre’ – my plan being to work over three days and spend another two per week building my IT business. Within two weeks, the practice manager decided the role wasn’t for him and I was asked to step up. Four weeks later, I was offered the role permanently. Despite the challenges, I have found a role I truly love.
Q. What would you say are the biggest challenges of being a practice manager today?
Sadly, we are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the expectations of our population. We live in a world of instant gratification, we are not supported by the messaging in the media and from central government. The funding we receive just about allows us to meet our populations’ needs but is far from meeting their desires.
Q. What do practice managers need most in terms of support and resources – from NHS England and from GPs?
From NHS England, funding – please push the cash to front line GP services. I can promise you there are very few who have the ethics to pocket this as profit. We desperately wish to grow our team but are restricted by our current funding. However, if we drop our profits to increase appointments, the salaried roles on offer from other local organisations will be more appealing.
Q. What do you find most rewarding about being a practice manager?
Undoubtedly the ability to change the service based on feedback. If we identify that something needs changing, we can get on with it without needing three different boards to approve it. I have also never worked in an organisation within a team with such closely aligned goals.
Q. How do you see the future of practice management? The role did not exist in the early days of the NHS. Do you think it will still be around in another 70 years?
I believe there will always be a role for a leader in the organisation – will this leader be called ‘the practice manager’? Not likely – it feels like we are already moving past this.
Q. What do you think you would be doing today if you were not a practice manager?
I can’t even begin to imagine not doing what I do. I suspect that I would have set up my own IT business. The role of running and owning a small business would not be that different to what I do now.
Q. The practice manager role is forever evolving. If you could choose your dream team, what would that look like and which professions would it include?
If we had parity of funding across practices, I believe we would have about £100,000 a year more to spend on our team. My first investment would be in a firstline mental health practitioner to support our patients when they enter crisis or relapse (ideally before).
I suspect this person would also be very good at linking with secondary care mental health services to gain rapid support. After this, I would invest in our patient liaison team to enable us to answer the phones a little faster.
Daniel Vincent is a practice manager