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Keeping the practice team happy

Professor Rodger Charlton has some pointers for GPs on maintaining high morale and harmonious working at the practice.

With a tough job to do, team spirit goes a long way  (Image: iStock)
With a tough job to do, team spirit goes a long way (Image: iStock)

An unhappy practice team can quite easily become inefficient with the possible result that patient care starts to suffer.

Are you doing enough to show that everyone’s efforts are valued and to encourage the team to pull together?

Here are some tips:

Mutual respect

Each team member has an important individual role whether doctor, receptionist or nurse. With increasing workloads and never ending new patient and administrative demands related to commissioning, it is important to be supportive and not critical.

Don't keep thinking that you are working harder than the next doctor.

May be you are, but they are seeing a different set of patients who have chosen to see them and not you. Some of their patients may be very challenging with different needs that are more time-consuming to deal with.


You are asked at interview if you a team player? This question is a bit of a cliché, but teamwork is so important.

If you work in isolation you will achieve little. With a tough job to do, team spirit goes a long way, not least keeping everyone's morale up. It also means that everyone has a job to do, but they can’t do it alone and neither can you

Helping out

If a colleague is struggling offer to help them out. It could be that they are running behind in surgery – perhaps because they have encountered difficulties making an emergency referral.

You could be having an easier day and may be one day you will be grateful for their help in return.

GP work should not be about counting the number of patients you see and ‘downing tools’ when you feel you have seen your allocation.

Social events

Your colleagues may not be your best friends, but sometimes if you make an effort to get to know them better and have a bit of fun this can break down tensions in the workplace.

Receptionists who are paid much less than the doctors really do appreciate the doctors occasionally funding a social.

This could be a meal out, going to a quiz night or ten-pin bowling.

GP partners

Being on partnership is sometimes described as like a marriage only more difficult you are unlikely to be in love with your partners.

While partners should have a legally binding partnership agreement there should also be give and take.

Importantly, try to resist monitoring what your partners do, such as counting up the number of letters Read-coded or blood tests filed or annual leave days taken.

If a partner has a crisis, because, say, a partner’s family member is ill or they need to attend a funeral, offer to help them out.

Salaried doctors

Don't take them for granted, treat them as equals and ensure they get a say in the running of the practice.

Salaried doctors need the partners as mentors to help them develop, progress and be happy with the post they have.

Make sure that they are invited to practice meetings. It is important to give them an opportunity of being considered as partners themselves one day.

Little things, big differences

Making the surgery a more congenial place to work does not require a huge effort. It includes things such as:

  • Providing tea, coffee and biscuits and somewhere to have a break.
  • Being polite, saying good morning on arrival and genuinely wanting to know how everyone is.
  • Being supportive if a patient is rude.
  • Exiting the building together at night and not leaving anyone on their own

Ancillary staff

Although district nurses, health visitors and other members of the team may not be employed by you, it is important to value their input.

Make a point of speaking to them, talking through cases and inviting them to make themselves coffee or tea when they want and giving the opportunity to attend practice social events.

Renewing worn out items

Make the surgery a more pleasant environment to work in. This could mean replacing furniture, crockery, carpet or just making sure there are enough pens.

If the staff would like a uniform or a new one, consider the request.Being receptive to such requests can mean a lot.

Conflict avoidance

If there is a disagreement, don't let it fester. If a member of staff believes they have been treated unfairly, listen to them as soon as possible and resolve their concerns. Don’t get to the stage of needing conflict resolution.

Regard the members of the team as your friends and one of the reasons you go to work.

  • Professor Charlton is a GP, associate clinical professor at Nottingham Medical School and honorary professor at Swansea University.

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