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by Isabel Shaw
8 November 2019

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Wellbeing in Practice: Gareth Thomas – ‘Walking my dog is therapeutic’

As part of our new series on wellbeing, reporter Isabel Shaw asks South Wales practice manager Gareth Thomas how he relaxes outside of work

To mark the launch of our wellbeing in practice initiative, which aims to shine a light on how practice managers can achieve a better work-life balance, we’ve been speaking to practice managers around the country to see how they do it.

Gareth Thomas, who has been a practice manager for West Quay Medical Centre in Barry, South Wales for the last six months, talked to Management in Practice about the stresses that come with being a practice manager and the isolating nature of the job.

‘There are a lot of challenges that come with being a practice manager, mainly around patient expectations in terms of what the practice can provide and what a patient wants. It is a constant challenge,’ he says.

‘Not that I don’t enjoy that, I like the variety of the job, the responsibility and the team ethic in the practice. I enjoy making the practice better for patients and staff.’

Learning to unwind

Understandably, however, with such responsibility comes a certain level of stress.

The key, Mr Thomas explains, is to learn how to switch off when you close the surgery doors. ‘Some people can do this and some people can’t. Fortunately I’m one of those who can,’ he explains. ‘It’s just important to not take your work home with you, which is probably one of the biggest challenges for practice managers.

‘In terms of de-stressing and my own well-being I find the gym to be my go-to place, along with walking my dog, a Hungarian Vizsla called Tilly, which I also find to be therapeutic.’

According to Mr Thomas, an emotionally intelligent practice is key to feeling good in such a demanding role.

‘I am also fortunate to have very supportive GP partners who are willing to listen, which is very important, so you don’t feel isolated,’ he says. ‘Being a practice manager can be a very isolating environment on occasions, so it is good to have a supportive environment.’

The practice has worked on tackling the mental health issues of its staff by introducing a 24 hours a day wellbeing telephone service, mobile app and online portal, offering support and advice to staff, including Mr Thomas himself.

‘The practice believes this service to a very important, given the pressures on general practice, particularly upon our staff, which may affect not only their work life, but also their personal life. Therefore it is good to know that they have independent confidential support inside and outside of work should they need it,’ he says.

West Quay Medical Centre is fairly physically active as a practice, according to Mr Thomas, which he believes also contributes to its overall mental and physical wellbeing. ‘The other day all the staff went to an aquapark in Barry, which everyone enjoyed, he explains. ‘We also have a lot of staff that cycle to work, which we try to promote for wellbeing purposes as well as the environmental benefits, of course.’