- 4 mins read
Your practice is being asked to do more with less.
On March 6 2023, the NHS sent a letter to all GP practices in England, laying out the new contract terms. The letter was met with anger. To quote Dr Kieran Sharrock, BMA England GP committee acting chair, 'To offer nothing to meet the spiralling costs of running practices as inflation runs rife, and teams continue to do more with less, is insulting to staff and unsafe for patients.’
There’s a lot of emphasis on patient access targets, but the BMA argues that the contract offers little to no support for running a GP surgery at a time of spiralling costs.
The fact is, NHS England is imposing the changes, so they’re unavoidable. Since you’re faced with greater expectations without any meaningful assistance, here’s a short guide to getting the most out of your practice through smart resourcing and maximising GP wellbeing.
You won’t be surprised to read that 99% of GPs feel overworked (MCG Healthcare Primary Care Survey, 2022). Smart resourcing won’t solve that, but it can ease the worst of it.
One development that could be of use to surgeries is a change to the GP retention scheme. The scheme offers financial support to GPs who are seriously considering leaving practice for personal reasons, are approaching retirement, or need greater flexibility.
GPs on the scheme were capped at four sessions per week. That limit was lifted during the pandemic, and now it is being lifted permanently. It could keep a lot more GPs in the workforce, and since each doctor under the scheme will be able to offer more of their time, practice managers may have more resource available. (NB. The surgery must fund any work over the four-session threshold.)
Of course, like part-time GPs, locums can provide much-needed support. They’re ideal to cover short-notice needs like illness, or for longer-term absences like parental leave. Making locums part of your resourcing strategy (rather than purely an urgent measure) may well be the answer to some of the wider workload strains.
As a practice manager, when you have the option of locums, part-time GPs, and salaried full-timers, you can find it far easier to cover all sessions and avoid backlogs and delays.
Safeguard your GPs’ mental health
GPs who are suffering from mental health struggles are unlikely to perform at their best, or even to remain in their role for very long.
Everyone working in healthcare is under immense pressure. Each field has its unique challenges in that context, and for GPs that’s often loneliness.
Many in general practice chose that path because of their natural empathy. Unfortunately, those people who thrive on human interaction often become isolated.
General practitioners are stuck in their offices for very long working days; their interactions are mainly with those who have physical and emotional struggles, and that takes its toll on an empathetic mind. GPs also may worry that if they approach a fellow practitioner for help, they may be signed off practice if their peer deems the problem to be serious. That’s an obvious and difficult dilemma.
According to the MCG Healthcare Primary Care Survey (2022):
GPs also have the media to contend with. The portrayal of GPs is often extremely negative. A study published in 2019 by the British Journal of General Practice found that ‘the public image of the family doctor as a 'virtuous practitioner' (upstanding, honourable, courageous and selfless) has been replaced in the media by images depicting GPs' moral failings (lazy, greedy, uncommitted, selfish, and even violent).’
It's no surprise that a GP would feel (at the very least) demoralised. The root causes are out of your control as a practice manager, but you can still play a vital role in protecting your GPs’ mental health. By making sure they feel able to seek support before their issues escalate, and by encouraging them to do so, you can prevent a mental health crisis from building on top of a clinical one.
Support is available from many sources, including LMCs, or MCG’s GP wellbeing lead, Dr Matt Mayer. Matt is available for wellbeing calls with GPs who have worked through MCG Healthcare. In his words, ‘I would encourage them to seek help as early as possible. There are people there who will listen, and who will talk to them confidentially.’
Make useful partnerships
Working with partners who have deep industry experience can help you run the practice far more smoothly, and to maximise the quality of work that your GPs can produce.
When it comes to resourcing, specialists with wide networks can find excellent locums at short notice. For salaried GPs, it goes without saying that culture and experience fit is fundamental — not just to longevity in a role, but also to the value that the GP brings to the practice.
MCG Healthcare, for example, is the leading partner for primary care providers who need the most exceptional and reliable talent. We are dedicated to finding candidates who match your specific needs.
If you’re a practice manager trying to staff your surgery with dedicated and compliant staff, call 0330 024 1345 or email email@example.com.
You will have dedicated support from experienced sector specialists, who’ll be proactive and responsive from search to placement, and beyond.
You spend your life looking after others. We’re here to look after you.