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Secret Diary of a PM: What I Learned From Joining My PCN Board

We’ve all been there before with the latest big NHS initiative - it sounds good, but will it go the distance? Will it actually save me time as a busy Practice Manager?


Can I afford to attend more meetings when I know there are staff illnesses to cover, toilets to unblock and patients to pacify back at the Practice? Will PCNs help my staff, will my patients have better access, and will my GPs be less stressed out?

The cynic in me says maybe, but at what cost - and for how long? My decision-making process kicked in with the faithful Jerry Maguire technique - show me the money - and NHS England did just that! Armed with the promise of £s I decided to learn more about PCNs.


Getting involved with my PCN Board

Things moved quite quickly and a Clinical Director was appointed for my Primary Care Network, closely followed by a request for a Practice Manager to join the Board. Being a relative newbie to General Practice (less than 10 years) I was dubious as to what I could offer my PCN - after all, there were many other PMs in my area with more experience and knowledge.

I reflected on what the Board position required of a PM – “minute taking” came to mind immediately, oh how boring! But looking beyond that, the essence of the role was really ensuring that there was a Practice Management voice to help shape future planning.


Could I be the voice of PMs in our Primary Care Network?

I considered the following questions:

  • Do I get on with my fellow PMs?

  • Do they trust me?

  • Have I worked well with them in the past?

  • Am I committed to sharing information with them in a timely fashion and taking their thoughts to the Board in a proactive way - even if I’m personally not in agreement?

  • Do I believe in my Clinical Director?

  • Am I collaborative?

  • Do I have some common sense?

  • Am I committed to change and do I think we can change things for the better?

  • Do I want to help shape something good?

  • Am I prepared to do a little bit extra?

 

Pleasingly the answer to all of the above was YES. I’ve worked with my peers on resilience fund collaborations and our monthly PM networking meetings have worked well for several years. So I asked my fellow PMs if any of them wanted to do it, and if they were happy for me to represent them. Again, pleasingly their answer was YES (although I think they were all relieved it wasn’t them to be honest…)


Collaboration and camaraderie in General Practice

Having come from a corporate background, the world of Primary Care was initially all a bit strange to me: basically loads of small businesses competing against each other for patients and income. So why would they want to come together and conversely help each other out?

I guess the answer is there are few choices other than collaborate or merge, and not many GP Partners seem to want to do the latter unless as a last resort. The cynic in me thinks that NHS England would prefer it though; less admin, fewer dissenting voices, much easier to control… however the Primary Care business model is too hard to unpick, not to mention the estates nightmare this would bring.

An incentive-driven PCN model helps GP Partners keep some level of autonomy and goes some way towards achieving consistency and economies of scale without upsetting the apple cart too much!


Asking the big questions about PCNs

Armed with the knowledge gained through attending several Thornfields courses, such as Time Management, Change in General Practice and Lean Working, as well as the Productive General Practice programme, I went to my first PCN Board Meeting.

There we were, a handful of uncomfortable looking GPs and a sole Practice Manager, most of us taking perhaps too much interest in the delightful sandwiches provided. We basically listening to what the newly appointed Clinical Director had managed to figure out from the masses of PCN blurb churned out, and quickly realised that the model was still being built!

Logistics were not to be underestimated. What would be our constitution, how would voting work, who should attend each meeting, how frequent should these be… Who should hold the PCN funds when received, who should execute documents.


Did I regret getting involved?

So many questions, all of them necessary, and many more besides… that’s before we get into the nitty gritty of which and how much additional resource we should go for, as well as how this would be divided!   

  • Did I regret putting my hand up?

  • Did I think that it would be as challenging as it has now transpired?

  • Do I think that it will be worth the effort? Definitely!

 

I look forward to sharing my PCN’s future progress with you soon.


Are you bringing together organisations as a Primary Care Network (PCN) or GP Cluster, and want to ensure the new collaborative network is more than the sum of its parts? Find out how Thornfields can be your PCN Partner and help you achieve your objectives.

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Salary: £45,000 p/a

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