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 Virginia Patania 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 was hired as a practice manager 12 years ago. In that time, I have found the job transitioning from a place of ‘management’ to one of leadership. I feel that management is an obsolete function in organisations with vision and mature leadership.
Q. When did you start as a practice manager and how did you get into the role?
I started 12 years ago, and came in from the private sector, with little or no knowledge of the NHS. My aim was to bring private sector standards and sleekness to the public sector delivery bodies.
I Googled the most deprived boroughs in the UK, to maximize the comparative gains I might be able to support achieving, sent out a handful of CVs to various public sector bodies, and took the very first job I was offered. Which was as Practice Manager of a large, progressive practice – I hit the jackpot.
Q. What are the biggest challenges of being a practice manager today?
Having the humility to understand that management is a largely surpassed function, and the flexibility and resilience to understand and lead on quality improvement and innovation at scale instead. Letting others at the homestead run the practice, and allowing them to flex and grow their muscles.
Q. What do practice managers need most in terms of support and resources?
Carte blanche. One big, huge sheet of carte blanche, and the infrastructure to share evidence-based, sustainable innovation and improvements at scale. Also, much stronger IT infrastructure, with more focus on easier data sharing across robust IT platforms, and less on the microsystem assurance of data protection.
More sharing, fewer barriers and better IT. However, most importantly, to loudly advocate a case where the NHS severs any links to the government, to take on an independent status similar to that of the Bank of England.
Q. What do you find most rewarding about being a practice manager?
Being able to share hope and ideas across the country, watching innovation increase joy and productivity in my own practice. At a personal level, the friendship and support of my adventurous partners.
Q. The role did of the PM did not exist in the early days of the NHS. What is the future of pratice management and do you think it will still be around in another 70 years?
I would certainly hope not – I think the more we know about models of devolved leadership, such as holocracy, and the more we know about the power of Quality Improvement, the less we will focus on “managing” small businesses.
Q. What do you think you would be doing today if you were not a practice manager?
If I had known myself better at the time of choosing my university degree, I would be a management consultant. In a perfect dream world, I’d love to be a talk show host or a politician. In the USA, ideally, and one with high visibility. Basically, I’d like to be Oprah Winfrey. But we both know that there is no room for two Oprahs on this planet.
Q. The practice manager role is forever evolving. If you could choose your dream team, what would it look like?
I think I already have the dream team – I think all teams are dream teams. A dream team is nothing but the reflection of a great leader, who can make that dream reality.
Virginia Patania is a transformation partner at Jubilee Street Surgery in the heart of Tower Hamlets in London’s East End.
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