- Posted Tuesday October 9, 2018
“It’s nice to be important - but it’s important to be nice…” This sentiment could sum up the approach of Tracey Binns, Practice Manager of Grove Road Surgery in Wallasey on the Wirral, whose surgery placed in the top 1% of last year’s GP Patient Survey in terms of patients’ overall experience.
In fact, every patient who completed the survey indicated they were satisfied with the service the practice provides - meaning it achieved a perfect 100% rating for this indicator. Thornfields’ Gerry Devine spoke to Tracey to learn how the practice achieved this fantastic result.
Tracey and her team could be allowed to take real pride in achieving such an accolade, which has not only prompted congratulations from her patients and CCG, but even resulted in coverage in the local press.
What becomes clear in my chat with Tracey is that such results do not happen by accident - they are a consequence of sustained effort by the whole practice team to put their patients at the centre of all that they do. It sounds simple, but as we all know it is less than easy.
Tracey knows this more than most, as she is an experienced Practice Manager who has managed a number of surgeries and also worked in the local out of hours service. She came to Grove Road four years ago and this is not the first time that they have achieved a 100% approval rating in the annual survey from their patients - so they have indeed set the bar very high for themselves.
I took the opportunity to see if Tracey had any hints and tips she could share as to how she and her team have managed to achieve this.
Tracey is very clear that there’s no magic bullet and that it all boils down to hard work and getting the best out of your team, whilst engaging as best you can with your patients - so that you seek to communicate with them rather than at them.
Tracey believes size is a major contributor too. Her list size is just under 3,000 patients, with a demographic profile she describes as average and with mixed needs.
It may run contrary to the prevailing NHS mantra that “bigger is better”, but Tracey believes the practice’s smaller list size and its doctor and staff-to- patient ratio contributes to better relationships, which in turn leads to mutually improved understanding between the practice and its patients.
This belief is echoed in the feedback from many of her patients, who say they do not want to recommend the practice to other potential patients – but only because they like the practice being small.
Tracey’s team enjoys very little staff turnover, so there is continuity of service delivered by a long-standing team who take pride in knowing their patients and seek to go that extra mile wherever they can. This point is emphasised in the Practice’s CQC report, where they achieved Outstanding for the Caring indicator. This was supported by comments about the “friendly and kind” staff and clinicians, and by the example of clinicians making non-requested, but reassuring, home visits to known vulnerable patients.
Tracey tries not to push feedback mechanisms onto patients, preferring to recognise the desire of patients, from time to time, just to be able to drop a comment card into the feedback box in the waiting area. The practice also has a virtual PPG, which means patients can engage at times that are convenient to them.
Tracey tells me she finds the practice’s Facebook page the greatest source of virtual engagement with patients, as using social media is simple, easy and promotes a constructive two-way dialogue that has a community feel.
It was great to spend time with such a practical and pragmatic Practice Manage whose approach seems to really work for her patients - many thanks to Tracey for sparing the time to speak with FPM. Finally, here are the three top tips that she wanted to share with fellow PMs…
- Remember to fully exploit the benefits of social media. Cultivate a virtual community with your patients and encourage a two-way constructive dialogue.
- Do make time to reflect on how complaints can be potential improvement opportunities, but also give equal airtime to compliments, as well as celebrating and recognising successes.
Tracey has a low-tech but very effective means of doing this - her “Door of Good News” is where all good news is posted so it’s visible to the team and reminds them what a good job they are doing..
- Amidst all the needed procedures and systems of running an increasingly complex and challenging small business, try not to lose sight of the the fact that it’s all about people and relationship building.