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Assistant practice manager training part 1: Admin, reports and communications

Paperwork and internal and external communication are a good place to start when training your assistant practice manager.

There are many aspects of the day-to-day running of a GP practice that a new assistant practice manager (APM) will need to get to grips with. Getting the APM involved with meetings, reports and other paperwork is a good place to start and will give them a good overview of how the practice works.

If your APM comes from outside the practice and has never worked in the NHS or general practice you will probably need to spend more time explaining the rationale behind certain tasks or work carried out within the practice, for example what the QOF is, or why the practice undertakes particular meetings.

If your APM has been promoted internally, then they may already have some involvement with these tasks and understand the basics of how the practice works. However, it is a good idea to check that they do know why, for example, you need to run regular reports and how data in the clinical system converts to payments to the practice, rather than assuming they already have this knowledge.

Minutes of meetings

Minute-taking is a skill and a good one to start with because if the new APM is involved with meetings in the practice he or she will gain a much better understanding of how things work.

Ask the APM to take minutes of different types of meetings, including admin meetings and clinical meetings. Ask them to come up with their own format for this and put them in charge of following up on the action points.

Are there local CCG meetings that you could send the APM to that would give them a flavour of the wider NHS world? Could they take notes and feedback to you?

Think about the meetings you need to go to, which do you think are the most and least useful for the APM to attend? Could they sit in as an observer to see examples of what to aspire to and what to avoid?

Reports

What reports do you need run on a regular basis? These could include QOF, enhanced service reports and vaccination reports. What reports need to be run less often but for which trend information could be gathered?  

You could ask the APM to draft the annual PPG report or measure monthly uptake of online appointments or DNAs. Ask the APM to look at how to set up systems to collect this data and to tabulate it in an easy format.

More involved tasks could include asking the APM to review the regular data collections. Are they effective, is there any way that they could be improved?

How can you compare the data collected within the practice with outside sources to benchmark data? How complex this will be depend on the needs of your practice the skills of your APM.

For example, could they look at prevalence data on NHS Digital and see how the practice prevalence differs from its neighbours? Could they work with one of the nurses or GPs to think about why that might be and searches that could be run to increase prevalence if appropriate?

Business planning and strategy  

How up to date is your current business plan? Are there areas that the APM could help research or sections they could draft? Could they consult staff on proposed changes or improvement to the practice and seek staff views on what is currently working well and what could be improved?

Communications

Ask the APM to review external communications within the practice – perhaps looking at patient-facing communications first. What does the waiting room or website say about the practice and how could it be improved? Are leaflets and information on the website up to date? Is the practice making the most of the call board or website functionality? Do you have a patient newsletter?  

Could the APM work with PPG group on your practice’s self care agenda? If the APM is going to work with the PPG it is a good idea to set parameters both with the APM and PPG about what is possible so that everyone has realistic expectations of what can be achieved.

Ask APM to look at internal communications - what works well, what doesn’t? Could you have an email bulletin or regular updates to keep everyone informed about changes or news?. What is the process with disseminating useful information from the CCG or NHS England?  

You could ask the APM to review the system and put them in charge of ensuring that safety alerts are cascaded to all the relevant staff and that any actions required from the practice are followed up.

  • Fionnuala O'Donnell is a practice manager in Ealing, West London, and a CCG board member.

Assistant practice manager training plan

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