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by Costanza Pearce
6 March 2019

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The PM edit: Val Denton 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.
Reporter Costanza Pearce talks to Val Denton 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 actual hands-on work hasn’t changed for me. I have avoided becoming a manager behind closed doors, which is a danger given the amount of bureaucracy and jumping through hoops we are expected to deal with daily. The pressure to achieve and be financially stable is more intense now. 
[When I first started] we didn’t have to work as hard as we do now to stay afloat and patient expectations weren’t really an issue. Patients had a lot more respect for the profession then and didn’t usually bother the GP unless they really needed to.
The question is, what is a practice manager’s role? My role is a combination of business manager, operational manager and everything else.
Q. When did you begin as a practice manager and how did you get into the role?
I started as a receptionist in 1993 and went on to complete the practice manager diploma.
It was a tough course and once I passed it I got a deputy practice manager job in Colchester running three practices. After about a year I stepped up and never looked back although it was a really steep learning curve.

Q. What are the biggest challenges of being a practice manager today?
Fitting it all into a working day and keeping everyone happy and productive. I strongly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without the team I have, including the GPs. 
My biggest challenge is keeping up with change, keeping on top of the paperwork and constantly chasing the money.

Q. What do practice managers need most in terms of support and resources?
A good deputy manager, a team that can multitask and more funding to remain resilient.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about being a practice manager?
Helping patients and saving lives, literally. We train our team to navigate appointment requests and this has really saved lives.
I like to see my GPs happy and less stressed – with a good work-life balance – and I love achieving. Every day is a challenge and every day is different.

Q. How do you see the future of practice management?
It will probably be called something else but it is still managing a business.
I have heard some of the large primary care groups say they don’t feel they need practice managers. One director of a merged group told me we were dinosaurs who weren’t needed and anyone could do the job.

Q. What do you think you would be doing today if you were not a practice manager?
I would probably be doing something in healthcare. I always wanted to be a nurse but I’m too squeamish. I’d love to own and manage a care home as I am passionate about care for the elderly.

Q. The practice manager role is forever evolving. If you could choose your dream team, what would it look like?
I have already got it – they have worked so hard to turn the practice around and deserve recognition for their commitment and dedication.

Val Denton is practice manager at Hillview Family Practice in Bristol