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Sunday 25 September 2016
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Pre-Christmas madness as crunch looms – but give credit where it’s due

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What is it with the run-up to Christmas? The world seems to go mad! It's hard to believe that our surgery will only be closed for an additional three days if you count New Year's Day. Dashing through our "prescription department" and noticing our team looking unduly pressured (it's a busy department at the best of times, so red faces are the norm – we process hundreds of prescriptions each week) I asked why they appeared so flustered.

"Oh, it's the silly season," was the reply. "It's Christmas."

"But it's only October," I responded.

"Yes, exactly – and that's what I'm telling them: to go away and put their requests in again in December," was the flabbergasted response.

I left them to it, but I had to wonder why on earth this should happen at a time when we are extremely accessible – and being pushed to be more accessible – with regard to appointments. For example, we have been told that if we have an extended hours surgery on either Christmas Day or Boxing Day and we decide (decide?) to cancel them, then we really should make up for that lost time. And all this when we have fantastic access to pharmacists too, with many being open 100 hours a week.

The answer is simple really – it's because we are dealing with human beings, and no amount of education seems to change their thought processes. For example, we are closed for three days; therefore I need to stockpile my medication two months in advance! Where is the logic?

A time to dance?
It's our staff Christmas party soon. This is always a good evening. Our staff really like to party and our partners try to make it a good night. We have done something different this year, though. We have restricted our invitations to the staff and not their partners, and have splashed out on a really nice venue and transportation. It should be a great night.

However, you would be surprised at how many staff are reluctant to come without their other halves. It's amazing how what seems to be a simple idea and a nice gesture can turn out to be controversial. If they lived in my house they would be out like a shot! (We have a new puppy, and it's chaos! He is adorable, but even so my other half can dog-sit that night.)

The party season may be nigh, but for some this Christmas will be financially more difficult than usual. The credit crunch is very much a reality. This issue was raised in the latest Management in Practice online survey, which considers many aspects of practice finance.

I was surprised to see that while many managers thought the credit crunch would have an impact, most felt it would only be "moderate". I'm not so sure about that. We are already seeing the knock-on effect in our day-to-day practice. For instance, the number of insurance reports coming through the door has dropped quite considerably – a sign of the slack housing market? Who knows? Take a look at the results and form your own views.

On a more cheerful note, the winners of the inaugural Management in Practice Awards were announced at the Birmingham event in October. The various award categories included Practice Finance, Innovative Use of Technology and the Practice of the Year Award.

Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the award ceremony, due to a prearranged flu programme (we try to do all of our flu jabs in one mass vaccination programme over a one-week period, with leave prohibited). However, I am advised that it was a great event with deserving winners.

I was fortunate to be involved in the judging of one of the categories (Design and Facilities), and it's fair to say that the standard of entries was extremely high. So well done to everyone – not just the winners, but to everyone who entered.

Winning attitude
Special congratulations go to practice manager Debbie Bodhanya and her team at the Limes Medical Practice in Epping: the winners of the Practice of the Year Award. This is a deserving achievement, as Debbie and her staff have obviously put a lot of work in to adapt an access system introduced as a result of a very public question from one of their patients.

They could so easily have taken a different approach to the way they responded to an access issue raised by one of their patients on the BBC's Question Time back in 2005, which put their practice firmly in the spotlight. However, they took the difficult route and made changes, which have clearly paid off – so well done to everyone at the practice, you are winners indeed.

Could you be winners next year? Think about it while you enjoy your mince pies and mulled wine, and have a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2009 (credit crunch permitting!).