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27th July 2017

Policies and procedures – it’s obvious

This is my first article for QCS and I’m really delighted to be here. I wanted to give you a flavour of the person who will be writing for you on general practice from now on. I’m someone like you - I don’t sit on a pedestal from which I look down on the world. I thought I should share something that happened recently and how it relates to everyday life in the maelstrom of general practice in 2017 where running for the lifeboats is never an option – we stay on board and steady the ship.

As you know, finding and keeping a strong, solid practice manager who can stay afloat these days and navigate the practice through every storm is no easy feat. Without a good, skilled and knowledgeable management lead a practice – and its executive, be it a partnership or a board of directors – is likely to become vulnerable. Not a good thing to be in the cut throat world where small practices are finding it hard to survive and are regularly being eyed up for takeover by their bigger neighbours whether or not they are members of a federation.

It is impossible to provide a handover for everything a practice manager does no matter how long the handover period or how thoroughly the notes have been compiled. I come across many practices who have lost their long term practice manager – who may have been a partner as well which very likely has destabilised the executive team even more –and are trying hard to find a replacement (the shape and function of that replacement will be the subject matter of another article).

So, back to the story: a practice in the very circumstances I described above needed an interim manager as their replacement manager had given in their notice and was leaving fairly quickly. I was lucky enough to find a good interim practice manager and got them together. The practice was already on a recruitment pathway but only at the stage of agreeing on the practice profile and job description as well as setting up the recruitment email address. It was clear from the start the interim was likely to meet all the practice requirements and, if everything was in order for both sides, the practice wanted to offer the interim the permanent role.

Clearly, the caution here was whether or not the practice could indeed go ahead and offer the role to the interim. Others locally would likely have had their eye on the role and were possibly waiting in the wings for their moment on the interview stage. It’s a lovely practice where anyone would like to work on a permanent basis. So, the question was could the practice go ahead and safely offer the role to the interim? What did the law say? Would they be doing something wrong? What would the CQC say if they came along and looked at the recruitment or the HR file?

The questions were loud but I couldn’t hear the answer which, on reflection, should have been equally noisy and should have drowned out the questions: what does the practice recruitment policy say? It was that simple. So simple it got overlooked through overthinking and the belief that everything has to be complex and challenging. The contents of the practice recruitment policy held the single answer to all those questions! Why hadn’t that come to mind immediately?

Lesson learned: check the practice policies are meaningful for your practice – not just up to date - and can really be used as the guide and support for what you do every day or simply now and again.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Leah Biller

General Practice Specialist

Leah has an extensive background in all aspects of healthcare including practice management. She is seen as someone to depend on to take on a challenge and turn it around for the better. After a short time in working with the law she moved on to healthcare in 1985 after a routine appointment at her local GP had her walking out as practice manager. That started her on the general practice trail and then into acute, primary and community as well as health regeneration plus a Master’s in Primary Care from QMUL graduating in 2003 as the only non-clinician on the four-year course. Read more

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