On 5 September, hundreds of practice managers around the UK dropped their paperwork and stored away their coffee cups to trek to North London's Management in Practice Event. And they weren't disappointed.
Despite an untimely strike on the London underground, the event hosted at Islington's Business Design Centre enjoyed a warm and lighthearted atmosphere. Practice managers could pick and choose from a selection of masterclasses and workshops, and take a stroll around the extensive exhibition. Practice manager Karen Hillman summed up her day, saying it was an "informative event with lots of take-home value – a motivator to go back to our practices and make
The keynote address, talks and panel session, which all took place in the main auditorium, were chaired by Management in Practice regular Wendy Garcarz. Two smaller, separate workshop areas were hosted by this magazine's consultant editor Cathryn Bateman and editor-in-chief Stephen Taylor.
First to speak was Professor Gerry McSorley, president of the Institute of Healthcare Management. He insisted that it was the practice manager's "duty" to add "public value" into GP surgeries, saying: "We can all add more by understanding what patients want. Generations to come will say they're not putting up with it, and we need to anticipate what future generations will want."
On the technical side, Dr Gillian Braunold from NHS Connecting for Health (CfH) spoke about progress with the NHS Care Records Service. When she asked the delegates how many used their smartcards, to her delight most raised their hands. When asked if anyone would do away with Choose and Book, a few hands twitched – however, no one agreed that they would abolish GP2GP. Dr Braunold reminded the audience that, despite initial struggles to get to grips with software, patients are highly appreciative of surgeries' efforts.
She even said that most patients
believe their records are already stored electronically, and want to know why an electronic record had not been put in place before.
This was a topic picked up again by Dr John Nicholas, who stated that patients enjoy the benefits offered by Choose and Book, but the service still struggles to overcome its negative media portrayal. Dr Nicholas said that work has gone into making the system faster and more reliable, and the NHS wants to consult GPs about its development through groups such as the National Clinical Reference Panel, the Design Steering Group, and Choose and Book user groups.
One of the event's highlights was the entertaining debate in the panel session. Panel members included experienced practice manager Joseph Chandy, independent healthcare speaker Roy Lilley and Allan Hildon, senior lecturer in health services and management at Essex University.
Chair Wendy Garcarz invited delegates to pose questions to this panel in a style reminiscent of "Question Time". Practice manager Mike Sutton asked the board: "Apart from fines and D-listing, what other options are there to address patients who regularly miss appointments?"
Roy Lilley, a lively and forthright contributor, suggested hunting down patients and turning up on their doorsteps to demand of them why they didn't show up! But, more seriously, the general panel consensus was to find out why patients struggle to attend their appointments, and what can be done to reduce "did not attend" (DNA) rates.
Manager Mark Fleetwood was awarded a bottle of champagne for his question: "As a dimension of healthcare, the quality of patient safety is high on the list. How can practice managers contribute to this?"
Mr Hildon said that practice managers have the most important role to play in patient safety, and ultimately a "huge amount of control" in patient care. Mr Lilley added that it is up to managers to create an environment where it is acceptable for staff to admit their mistakes in order that solutions can be created to fix them. He said managers had a responsibility to create a "we" atmosphere in the practice, so that staff do not hide away from admitting weaknesses and problems can be openly resolved.
Delegates could take a break from the heated debates by visiting the exhibition area, where a host of primary care exhibitors were available to talk about their products and services. Exhibitors included IT specialists, insurance consultants, training specialists and much more. The kind support of these exhibitors ensures that these events are completely free to delegates.