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Survival of the fittest
As Practice Managers we face unprecedented pressures from CQC inspections, active involvement with Clinical Commissioning Groups, constant changes to the GP contract and frequent employment law changes. In these increasingly difficult times Practice Managers often find that monitoring cash flow is a daily task. The inconsistent funding streams and jumbled payments mean it’s all too easy to lose track if you take your eye off the ball. One of the other main pressures that Practice Managers face is finding the time to monitor and review policy and strategy to ensure their practice is fully operational. It is apparent that CQC’s Well-led Key Line of Enquiry (KLOE) could be a real challenge in itself to achieve.
Transformation of the Manager role
The role of the Practice Manager has been transformed over the last few years. Practices are coping with changes in different ways, and the management style of Practice Managers can be very different depending on the needs of their staff and partners: some are very hands off and strategic and some are more hands on and operational. What is important for Practice Managers is having a sound structure so that workflow isn’t disrupted too much when staff are not present, due to both planned and unplanned absences. This is sometimes difficult to achieve with restrictions on recruitment due to mounting financial pressures, but CQC want us to evidence how we maintain appropriate staff levels, particularly to provide safe, good quality care for our patients.
The year ahead
Of course, what adds to the problem is the uncertainty of NHS contracts and subsequent funding after March 2015, and then there’s the outcome of the general election in May and what changes that will bring. More and more practices are discussing and considering being part of federations and collaborative working in order to pool resources, protect their businesses and survive. It makes sense for a group of practices to work together to create one clinical protocol, instead of wasting untold hours creating several different versions of the same document. I think a culture change is needed in order for this to happen, particularly for smaller practices, but many are already working together successfully and very happily. Although the Health and Social Care Act 2012 will certainly introduce a greater degree of competition in the provision of healthcare services, practices that work together may find themselves in a stronger position to bid for and win contracts.
Alison Lowerson – QCS Expert GP Practice Manager Contributor