It can be difficult to know when it’s time to leave your current job for pastures new, but it’s sometimes a necessity, writes Dr Matt Orr
Managing a surgery in has become more and more complex during the past decade. The skills, knowledge and expertise required to run general practice are much more complex than ever.
With the introduction of Primary Care Networks (PCNs), the NHS Long-Term Plan and the GP contract five-year framework, practice managers (PMs) have had to recognise the shift in skill mix in order to deliver.
There has been a change in traditional roles and general practice has had to move with the national direction of travel to survive. The introduction of business managers and operational managers has led to a more corporate staffing structure within some practices. However, this is still only a minority.
Of course, most GPs remain independent contractors and their surgeries are run autonomously. Funding within general practice does not allow for large corporate structures and is only those larger practices or the ones that have merged that have been able to develop these extended management roles within the structures.
New roles available
There are some great opportunities to move away from the traditional PM role. For example, PCNs will develop and become much wider than primary care; they will incorporate wider partners, including community, local authority and voluntary groups. Is this something that interests you?
Small surgeries will also require support from a business model approach in order to deliver on the national asks. Would you be able to take up this role?
How do you know you are ready?
If the new contracts and suggested ways of working fire your interest, then this is a great time to look for fresh opportunities.
Working in general practice is highly satisfying, as well as challenging, but having greater control of how patients are managed and dealt with from the moment they make contact with your surgery is highly rewarding. You could enhance that experience by working with either a bigger practice or wider partners beyond your own surgery to ensure that patient outcomes are improved.
Seeking a more senior role
Consider your achievements and the skills you have developed. What kind of role do you find attractive? What would fit your skills? You don’t need to match job descriptions exactly – think about how you could build on what you’ve done in a new role.
Speak up, support and contact clinical directors within PCNs, keep in touch and up to date with what is going on in your local CGs and Integrated Care System. Give your advice and ask questions at meetings; don’t be afraid to contribute.
As a PM, you will have transferable skills that could be moved over into other roles in the NHS. Consider the skill set you have: organisational, people management, managing finances, future planning and so on. This will put you ahead of others that have not been working in general practice. You just need the strategic vision and drive to move this forward.
Updating your CV
Your CV will sell your skills to system leaders. Ensure it is current and up-to-date. Include all your achievements; these are quite often underplayed within general practice. Have you written bids for additional funding? Been involved in pilots? Worked on projects with other partners? Led the practice team through a restructure?
Always try to keep to two pages – you don’t need to give lots of detail about jobs many years ago. Look at the CVs that have crossed your desk. What’s good, or bad, about them? Ask someone you trust to read your CV, checking for errors and looking at how it comes across.
There are significant opportunities to build a successful and rewarding future within PCNs and bigger practices. However, this will not suit everyone; only look at these roles if you want to develop new skills and tackle a fresh challenge.
Independent GP contractors will always have a need for managers, it is for you to decide and design how you see your role within the system.
Dr Matt Orr is a locum GP in central Lancashire. He was a full-time partner for 12 years before deciding to become a locum to free up time to pursue other interests. He set up a training business, Orr Medical Ltd, which focuses on the management side of general practice. He has been helping practices all over the north west achieve their goals.