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24 August 2018

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The PM edit: Diane Eaton in her own words

Management in Practice is speaking to a series of PMs on the front-line about what being a practice manager means to them.
Deputy editor, Angela Sharda talks to Diane Eaton 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?
The greatest change has been the transition from an administrative role to a more strategic and leadership approach. I am also conscious that the attitude of patients has created a different relationship with and approach to PMs.
Patients appear to have higher expectations of the service and what they feel are their rights and entitlements. This adds pressure on the service sometimes, as well as demands, which can be unrealistic to manage. On the positive front, improved technology has created better communication links, opportunities to contact patients more efficiently and manage information more effectively.
Q. When did you start as a practice manager and how did you get into the role?
I began working in primary care in August 1991, as a receptionist. I self-funded the AMSPAR practice manager course, starting in 1995 and completing it in 1996. I then moved practice and became an assistant PM. Later that year I took my first job as a practice manager and stayed there for over three years. I started at my current practice in August 2000 and became a partner in July 2006.
Q. What are the biggest challenges of being a practice manager today?
We are struggling to recruit medical staff but that has led us to be more creative and employ people from other professions, for example pharmacists and ANPs.
Q. What do practice managers need most in terms of support and resources?
A will to work collaboratively with shared goals, recognising the current pressures the service is under.
Q. What do you find most rewarding about being a practice manager?
The positive feedback we receive and the gratitude from patients. Mutual respect from colleagues and shared values in wanting to provide the best service we can for our patients. I like the variety the PM role offers – everyday is different.
Q. How do you see the future of practice management?
There will always be a need for some sort of leadership within a team, depending on the size of the team and in what context they work. Practices are working together in larger groups, through formal mergers or less formally via a collaborative approach.
Q. What do you think you would be doing today if you were not a practice manager?
I took a part time job in a local surgery 27 years ago and from day one I loved working in that environment. I do enjoy teaching, training and mentoring so perhaps I would have taken that direction.
Q. The practice manager role is forever evolving. If you could choose your dream team, what would it look like?
We will always need GPs – the partners I work with are committed doctors who care about their patients.
An ideal nursing team would consist of highly trained practice nurses who are able to support the GPs workload. Lastly, the HCA role for provision of the basic tests and checks and supporting the whole clinical team.
Pharmacists, mental health workers, MSK practitioners and paramedics are also useful additions to the team and bring their own specialties and skills to the service. These roles are ideal for a larger [patient] population and when practices are considering a collaborative working approach.
By identifying what could be done by other professions, GP practices can more easily manage the workload they are best suited to – [caring for] patients with long-term conditions who benefit from continuity of care.
Admin staff and receptionists often don’t get the recognition they deserve, in my opinion. Many of our staff have a wealth of experience in dealing with the patients and understand the connections within families.
Diane Eaton is a management partner at Fernbank Surgery