Whether the practice manager you recruit is experienced or new to general practice, understanding the dynamics of your particular practice will take the manager some time.
A good induction procedure involving the GP partners is key to the smooth running of the practice during this transition.
Partners need to be clear about the nature of the practice manager role they are recruiting for. Do you want the new manager to plan strategy and to advise the partners about the direction the practice should take? Are you looking for someone to manage the practice in its entirety or do some of the partners enjoy being involved?
Mary Bishop, practice manager at both The Health Centre and The Poplars Surgery in Stanmore, Hertfordshire comments: ‘The most important thing that a new practice manager needs to know when joining a practice is what is really required of them. Will they be able to manage in a way that gives them complete autonomy or will they merely be carrying out an administrative role? Clarity of their role from the beginning bodes well for the future.’
The practice management competency framework (Investing in general practice: the new general medical services contract, 2003, Annex C) was produced to encourage practice management development.
It indicates the wide range of skills that practices will need to have access to for maximum efficiency. The framework is a guide to the possibilities for individual and practice development and is not obligatory.
Some practices may have a single practice manager who encompasses most of these skills; others might have a practice manager who can access colleagues, either in other GP practices or via their primary care organisation (PCO).
Some practices nominate one partner to provide the practice manager’s induction and the critical areas to cover in this are outlined in the box.
If possible, in addition to delivering the induction programme, the practice manager and the nominated partner could arrange to get together during the first week for a few minutes at the beginning or end of each day to go over any uncertainties.
Then they could meet up weekly for the next few months. If it is not possible for just one partner to do this, different partners could be responsible for introducing the manager to specific areas (particularly if they lead on or have an interest in an area).
From the practice manager’s point of view, they will feel a lot more confident if they know who to defer to for each area, rather than asking the wrong partner and getting an unsatisfactory answer.
It is important to take steps to prevent the practice manager feeling isolated.
You can positively encourage them to make contact with other local practice managers and to join the local forum if there is one.
It may be possible to find a mentor from a neighbouring practice if your practice manager is inexperienced.
Crucially, the new manager needs to meet with PCO staff and find what the PCO considers to be the practice’s strengths and weaknesses.
After three and six months in post, the practice manager should have a review at which they obtain formal feedback on performance, discuss their training needs and how they view practice systems, clinical governance arrangements and the results of any risk assessments they may
have carried out.