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Understanding and Overcoming Primary Care’s Key Challenges

In the past week I’ve felt like a third member of the Proclaimers. I may not have walked 500 miles, but I’ve travelled not only 500 but also 500 more, venturing up and down the country to deliver Thornfields training and facilitation services to Primary Care teams.


At the end of this busy week, I started to reflect on why I love what I do so much - and why many of the GP Practice teams I meet feel the same about their own work. I think one reason for this feeling is the key ingredient of variety.

I began to wonder if there is any such thing as an average week in Primary Care – in my experience the answer is a resounding ‘no’. To test this idea, I thought I would share the topics that have been occupying me lately to see how well they chime with Practice Managers on the front line.


Getting to grips with Primary Care Networks

Presently one of the hottest topics for me has been helping GP Practices understand the evolving needs of their Primary Care Networks (PCN). I have recently been involved in both strategic and operational kick-off meetings framed by a Share and Learn format, which aims to harness the existing knowledge and experience within teams, whilst also promoting a shared vison of what success will look like in the coming years.

Interestingly, the potential measures I’ve encountered range from those traditionally fostered, such as identifying local health needs and potential shared solutions, to practical ideas like ensuring strong communication between the leadership teams of collaborating Practices to encourage growth, trust and teamwork.

It may be that of all the ambitious targets set out for the next five years, the true measure of operational compatibility might be organising a joint Christmas party…


Dealing with violent and aggressive patients

Whist PCNs, a bit like Brexit, may appear the all-consuming topic of the moment, neither exists in a vacuum. Every hot topic has to be seen in the context of the need to also deliver “business as usual”. 

Going back to my busy week, the other operational topics I delivered sessions on included dealing with violent and aggressive patients. As we are all aware, these situations are unfortunately becoming more common.  

The sessions I delivered to frontline staff included useful advice on how to deal with such situations if and when they arise, as well as how to de-escalate an encounter that threatens to get out of hand. I also shared the importance of having simple strategies to help build resilience after being confronted by violence and aggression.


Staying up to date with compliance and the CQC

The third area I have worked in this week centres on compliance, whether that’s the need for Practices to prepare for their Annual Regulatory Review with the CQC, or ensure all new and existing members of the team have an enduring understanding of the importance of GDPR.

Primary care staff must also have a practical awareness of the National Data Opt Out provisions, which GP practices in England have to be fully compliant with in just over 100 days. At Thornfields we have been hard at work updating our information governance training resources to include information on this hot topic.

Let me know in the comments below if these topics are representative of your current in-tray and whether you agree with me that variety is not only the spice of life, but also one of the best things about working in Primary Care.


Whether you need help today or are planning for tomorrow, Thornfields can help make a difference for your practice. To learn more about training courses for your team on any of the topics featured above, why not get in touch with Thornfields.

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