Before becoming a practice manager, Ruth was senior manager for 12 years at Bradford Royal Infirmary, and also worked for 12 months in the voluntary sector. A keen runner, having done the London Marathon on a few occasions, Ruth also spends her spare time watching her son play rugby and taking her daughter swimming
I arrived in Leeds in July 2003 to take on a new position in practice management, having been a practice manager in Bradford. I was expecting the same dreary and dreadful forums to attend each month, which basically never achieved anything more than being offered the usual plastic sandwich and sugar-filled "fresh orange"!
Well, how pleasing and surprising it was to find the opposite: a core group of managers who actually discussed relevant issues, were supportive and welcoming – and provided sandwiches to die for!
The original forum was chaired and run by the PCT. They made the decisions and dictated who should attend the meetings, which subjects should be discussed and what presentations there should be.
After about a year it was becoming increasingly frustrating for us as managers to find that, more and more, the PCT seemed to be taking the lead and there seemed to be no time available to discuss relevant practice issues. It was all about the PCT, their objectives and what they felt were relevant to us as managers.
In April 2004, after one particularly long-winded "presentation"-filled meeting, which was of no relevance whatsoever to us as managers, we decided to rebel. We made the decision to contact the PCT and inform them of our frustration at the lack of vision, clarity and relevance of the meetings. We sent a letter on behalf of us all to the director of nursing and health care development at the PCT. Following this letter, representatives from the PCT agreed to meet with us to discuss the way forward for future meetings and with a view that an amicable agreement could be reached.
Agreements on future meetings of the Practice Managers Forum were reached in May 2004. These included:
The meetings were reviewed six months later in November 2004; both managers and the PCT agreed that these were working well and that the format should continue.
So, what did the new format achieve that the old format couldn't achieve?
The current forum consists of 15 practice managers, all of whom attend all or most of the meetings. There are managers with specific areas of expertise (eg, IT, law, HR), who will liaise with the PCT on these issues on behalf of the group. Due to the relevance of the agenda, speakers and items for discussion, attendance at the meetings has increased. Better working relationships have also developed and been formed with the PCT.
Our nominated practice manager has a wealth of experience and is manager of the largest practice in Leeds West. She is very proactive on our behalf and will make decisions about whether items put forward for discussion are of relevance to the group.
The following are just a few examples of what has been achieved under the new format and working collectively as managers:
I am sure I speak for all in our forum in saying we all feel privileged and proud to be involved in such an innovative, supportive and forward-thinking forum where the primary focus is to improve the day-to-day running of practices and improve the quality of care provided to patients.