It was great to see so many of you at the Management in Practice Event in London on 3 September, writes Stuart Gidden. The second such event in the capital, held again at Islington's Business Design Centre, it proved a great success – not only did we hear from a strong selection of speakers, but it was great to see so many of you engaging with the topics by sharing questions, tips and experiences.
In the wake of Lord Darzi's Next Stage Review and the furore over polyclinics – and on the same day that Alex Salmond pledged to prevent private companies providing GP services in Scotland – Dr Kieran Sweeney's presentation, entitled "What will primary care look like in 10 years' time?" was extremely pertinent.
This was a fascinating presentation that considered the extent to which general practice is going to change over the next few years. For anyone doubting whether the times are indeed a-changin' (and there doesn't seem to be many of you – click here for the news story on how most delegates believe primary care will be radically different in a decade), Dr Sweeney drew an interesting comparison with the banking industry – it's been 10 years since the introduction of online banking.
Just consider the extent to which banking has changed since then, and the effect this has had on banking services. Indeed, if you think about how online services – including shopping and booking reservations, etc – has changed the way we do things now, it becomes apparent how change seems both gradual and sudden. Once we've adopted mobile phones and the internet, it becomes second nature, and living without these things becomes almost unthinkable (and I only bought my first mobile five years ago!).
Perhaps that's how real change in primary care will work? Perhaps in 10 years' time, we'll look back and wonder, as patients, how we ever got on without telemedicine, online consultations, e-prescriptions and walk-in appointments to the nearest polyclinic? Or perhaps we will look back nostalgically for an age of continuity of care and being on first-name terms with our local GP?
Yesterday's event certainly paid due regard to new technology, with authoritative presentations on IT, including: outlining the implementation and progress of the Summary Care Record and HealthSpace; how to present your practice online to the local community; electronic record patient transfer (GP2GP); as well as the risk and benefits of telephone triage and assessment.
In fact, with so much going on, practice managers are going to need to share this workload with their team – it all seems rather too much to take on yourself! No wonder management adviser Hilary Haman's session, on effective delegation, was so well attended!
Hilary explored the issue of delegation in an extremely lucid and practical way, outlining how good delegation is a way of developing and motivating your staff, rather than a means of offloading an unwanted workload.
Another highlight of the day was David Clough's presentation on managing finance in a GP surgery. David, a chartered accountant and the chairman of specialist medical accountants' association AISMA, gave a concise, straightforward explanation of the "efficient" practice and the "efficient practice manager" – the latter being someone managing team members effectively, ensuring administrative efficiency and being capable of strategic financial thinking.
AISMA has produced benchmark financial data on practices. According to David, a GMS and PMS practice should be earning income of approximately £120 per patient. "If you're practice doesn't make that, it's worth investigating why," he said, and gave several tips on increasing income (such as becoming a provider and increasing the list size) and reducing practice expenditure (eg, by bulk buying with other local practices).
Collaboration is of course always useful – and so it was particularly encouraging to see so much interaction from delegates. Both the panel session and new forum discussion sessions are designed to be led by the questions and debate of attendees, and this was certainly the case.
In the forum on HR and patient services, an enthusiastic discussion was prompted by some pertinent questions from the floor: how do you manage warring partners? How do you deal with underachievers? What types of teambuilding events do other practice managers organise? And what about patient participation groups (PPGs)?
One practice manager explained how his practice engages with patients via a paper-based newsletter and posters inviting patients to attend group meetings. He also encourages greater participation of patient surveys by encouraging patients to hand surveys to other patients.
The Question Time-style panel session was once again another highlight. In an environment of pessimism about general practice, it was encouraging to hear positive comments. An assistant practice manager asked how she could study to become a fulltime practice manager. A practice manager asked how she could go about seeking alternative employment with new GP providers, as her GPs were resistant to innovation.
It was interesting to hear from a manager embracing the possibilities of independent providers, even though many are concerned over this development. But as primary care lecturer Allan Hildon, a member of the expert panel, said: "We're in an era when it's not just a monopoly employer anymore". Perhaps this does present practice managers with opportunities?
Once again, it was a pleasure to meet those of you I spoke to, and the success of this event leads me to look forward to our next event, in Birmingham on 8 October! I look forward to meeting other practice managers there!
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"This was the first conference that I have attended and I thought the speakers were brillant. One of the most interesting was the changes in QOF this year – I am anxiously awaiting the presentations to be on the website" - Annette Bearwish, Stratford, East London
"As well as the presentations – the opportunity to see so many different companies represented in the exhibition and also to network with colleagues informally over coffee and lunch – practice management can be a lonely place sometimes and you can feel it is just you faced with the issues – it is a nice feeling to be able to know that others feel the same – even if there is nothing you can do about it!" – Keith Fuller, Downs Way Medical Practice
"I got a lot of useful information and freebies from the various stalls in the foyer. Also the venue was well chosen. I attended the 'how to delegate' session and although everything is much easier in theory, there were some good practical tips also. I'm one of those managers who believes that if you want things done well, you do it yourself. I now know I'm not the only one thinking this way, but in future I will try my best to delegate effectively and patiently. I also attended the session of the new QOF points. Very good, but I would have appreciate some handouts of the powerpoint presentation, but perhaps that was too expensive to produce. Very annoying that we are halfway through the quof year and still our software suppliers (EMIS) have not included them in their templates or population manager. Why does it take so long?" – Marja Moffat, London