Management in Practice is speaking to a series of PMs on the front-line about what being a practice manager means to them.
Reporter Valeria Fiore talks to David Pearson, practice manager at Lostock Hall Medical Centre in Preston 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?
I have only been in the sector for two years, but the role I am now doing is much more about developing the practice.
Q. When did you begin as a practice manager and how did you get into the role to start with?
Two years ago, I decided to take a complete change of direction in my career to suit the needs of my family. I wanted to reduce my commute and work less in the evenings and weekends, although I haven’t necessarily achieved the latter.
I have worked in the museum sector for more than 20 years, mainly at a senior managerial level. I have had a lot to learn, but I believe I am bringing some useful new perspectives to the role.
Q. What would say are the biggest challenges of being a practice manager today?
I am full of admiration for the huge range of tasks undertaken by practice managers. However, as practices grow in size and complexity, the need to employ specialist support staff to whom work can be delegated becomes more apparent.
Q. What do practice managers need most in terms of support?
Managers in any organisation depend on having a good team to keep the organisation running, freeing up their time for development and improvements. Coming into this sector I have been surprised by the extent of the problems of recruiting and retaining staff, in particular clinical staff. National shortages are driving constant instability and dissatisfaction amongst nurses and doctors. Practice managers need to work together to share and mitigate this fundamental problem.
Q. What do you find most rewarding about being a practice manager?
Being part of something that genuinely benefits the local community and using my experience working in a different sector to establish innovative means of increasing community engagement. We are currently relocating the practice to a larger building and the ambition is for it to become a community health centre, hosting a range of partner organisations.
Q. How do you see the future of practice management?
There will of course be a greater need for practices and practice managers to work together.
But I also think practices will be working more closely with other health and social care providers, so practice managers will need to become adept at collaborations outside their current framework.
Q. What do you think you would be doing today if you were not a practice manager?
I would be leading some form of museum/cultural project or organisation. I haven’t ruled out going back to that career sometime but in the meantime, I am enjoying the current challenges.
I am also leading on the practice’s community project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in partnership with the local museum, to explore the history of the building where we will relocate.
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?
We can envisage our new centre eventually becoming a home for our doctors and nurses and support staff, but also physios, a dentist, a pharmacy, mental health workers, visiting district nurses, health visitors, community engagement officers, a small museum display, well-being arts and dance classes, and who knows what else! A model for others? Let’s see!
David Pearson is practice manager at Lostock Hall Medical Centre in Preston, Lancashire.