How on Earth Do We Recruit a GP?

GP Recruitment Crisis; it’s a common problem

If you hang around with GP partners or practice managers for any time at all you’ll soon find the conversation turning to a common theme, recruitment, or lack of it. Everyone in primary care knows a surgery that are struggling to recruit or retain clinical staff.

Why is this?

Well, the answer you’ll get from most people will be the lack of GPs, but is this correct? Most of the areas where people struggle to find a permanent member of staff don’t have anywhere near as much trouble staffing their clinics with locum staff, so there are GPs in that area.

The problem isn’t likely to be solely due to the lack of available qualified GPs in the local area, but more likely to be the lack of GPs in the area who want to accept any of the current vacancies. More specifically, there is a lack of GPs who want to move from locum work into a permanent post.

Why don’t locums want to be salaried GPs or partners?

If you look at the direct comparison between the common working pattern of a locum vs a salaried GP it’s obvious what the differences are. Firstly, and most importantly, locums have total control over their workload. They set the terms of work. If they don’t like visits, they don’t have to do them, they can negotiate what times to start and finish, they can take leave whenever they want, including all the busy holiday periods and so on. On top of all that they often earn more money than salaried GPs in the same area.

So how do we attract locums to salaried posts?

If you look at the few practices that seem to have no problem attracting salaried GPs they are a few keen themes.

Firstly, they provide a fixed workload. They also remove any duty doctor or on-call commitment. They have therefore removed the most stressful part of being a GP, an unknown or unlimited workload. The unknown and not being in control is very stressful.

Secondly, they remove the most boring part of a GP’s day, they remove the need to do clinical admin such as repeat prescribing, clinical letters and reports.

The GP’s then know that when they come to work they will not be asked to do any more than their fixed working schedule and no boring paperwork. Some practices going even further and remove the need to provide home visits.

If you look at the pattern of work in these practices its hard to see the difference from that of a locum. There are very few differences, but most of them are positive: job security, sick pay, team environment, continuity, practice education etc.

It is no surprise that these practices don’t have any problems recruiting GPs to salaried roles. A practice who offer all of the above have recently recruited no less than five salaried GPs!

But we can’t provide an environment like that, what else can we do?

The first place to start is to look at your job adverts.

I can’t believe that people are still using the same old statements in their job adverts.

I’ve lost count of the ones that state lines like: “…join our hard working, high achieving practice with excellent QOF performance”, “looking for a hardworking, dedicated person…”

The language is all wrong!

An applicant will read from this “sounds like they are working way too hard to me!”.

People are no longer looking to work themselves into an early grave to demonstrate their commitment to their patients. They want a work-life balance and manageable workload. They want some energy left at the end of their working day for themselves and their family. Your advert needs to reflect that.

You need to demonstrate what you have in place to manage the workload and provide some form of work-life balance. For example, do you offer flexible working times? Why do we stick rigidly to two surgeries at fixed times? It’s not very family friendly for the school run. Do you offer term-time working?

Could you offer a portfolio career with sessions spent in other areas such as the CCG or other clinical areas? Do you offer leave for sabbaticals? Do you support further training or research?

You can’t achieve a more balanced workload without investing in your practice. Training your staff to manage clinical correspondence or to work as care navigators are only two examples of the many ways you can try and reduce the clinical workload.

Do you actually need a GP?

It’s finally been recognised in the NHS plan that we don’t always need a GP to see every patient in primary care. However, practices that have struggled to recruit GPs have already embraced this fact through necessity and have looked elsewhere for staff to manage their growing list of patients.

Could a first contact physiotherapist manage the huge percentage of musculoskeletal conditions that come through the door every day?

Could a mental health worker manage a suitable cohort of patients?

Other allied health care workers such as paramedics, pharmacists are finding a place in lots of surgeries along side non-clinical staff such as care navigators or social prescribers.

Summary

Modern GPs are looking for flexibility alongside a fixed workload. Jobs where this is offered will attract candidates over more traditional roles.

Portfolio careers are important to many GPs and jobs that allow or offer this will also stand out.
Once last thing. Even if you can only offer a job where the applicant is going to have to work pretty dam hard for the foreseeable future, please don’t shout about it!

Shout about the other things that might mitigate against the workload, such as the supportive environment you can provide, the new premises, the pizza night on a Thursday or the regular brew breaks etc.

Everywhere has something positive to offer. This is what should be front and centre in your adverts.

Bringing Primary Care Network (PCN) teams together

Everyone is talking about PCNs, that they are now in operation from the 1st July 2019 but how are they functioning? These aren’t new people forming a new organisation, these are individuals that are already working within general practice but are now starting to work more closely together.

How do you enable and facilitate bringing those teams together?


Time! It takes a lot of time, effort and passion to drive things forward. You have to believe in what the PCNs are trying to achieve and you have to push this vision forward.

It needs robust leadership, people who can see the longer term benefits, both for patients and the health and wellbeing of the workforce. They have to have the drive, however cannot ‘push’ or ‘force’ their views. They also need to listen, not just hear what is being said, but listen and take it on board, develop other peoples ideas and lead by example.

Communication is key, keeping all staff informed of what is going on, even if it does not seem that significant, means a lot to the wider workforce that are maybe not yet involved in any of the planning and strategy work. Monthly news bulletins are a great way to keep that communications flowing. It is so easy to be working so hard to make sure things are done right, yet because no-one knows what is going on, it is dismissed and not given the recognition and support it warrants.

We all know that there are no two surgeries that same in General Practice so how on earth do we get the staff to be aligned and start working together?


It needs all of the above and some facilitation, bringing any teams together can be difficult but bring 5 or 6 individual practices together is something else! By the way, PCNs are NOT about merging practices, they are about aligning resources to get the best outcomes for their populations.

It is always good to start out with the willing, have a team building event, nothing over the top like abseiling, maybe a lunch or a fun type of workshop. I would keep this to a handful of people from each surgery to get the best out of it. What you need is keen individuals that can then take it back to their practices and relay the key messages, encouraging the peers and colleagues to understand what is going on.

Following on from that, you have started to build those relationships, you now need to develop some values and a vision of how you want to work together and where you want to get to. This is often quite a challenge, are there are lots of personalities, good facilitation is key here to get the best outcomes.

Once you have all that in place, develop your strategy, agree your priorities, operationally how things will work, who will lead on the various workstreams, allow individuals the time to connect with others, this will reap the rewards downstream.

The key message here is don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to bring teams together, you have to build trust and relationships to enable the ‘good’ things to happen. Demonstrate how things can work by delivering on some small projects that actually everyone sees the benefit of.

So what about those that just don’t want to get involved?


Don’t worry about them. Forming a functioning PCN is no small task, work with those that want to, the other will come on board in their own time. For the PCN to be a successful environment, you can push people to join in. It will work because those that are in it want it to work and believe in the vision.

In the near future PCNs will need to start working with wider providers, including local Councils, community providers and the voluntary sector. For this to be successful you have to ensure that the members in your PCN are already working effectively together.

Longer-term over the next 3-5 years PCNs may take on more of a commissioning role, for this they need to fully understand their population, the needs and how they can manage these more effectively by working with the community around them to commission more appropriate local services. This will be a huge challenge, therefore the need to get a ‘functioning’ and ‘inclusive’ PCN is crucial from the beginning.

A Guide To Handling Difficult Patients In A GP Practice

Anyone working in a frontline role in primary care will be aware that having to handle difficult patients in a GP practice is ‘just part of the job.’ There are many reasons why patients may become challenging, aggressive or uncooperative, and having a better understanding of those reasons is a key component of primary care training.

It’s essential as primary care managers, that we fully support those who are in direct contact with these difficult patients so they are well-equipped to defuse the situation while still offering them the essential medical care they need.

Practice receptionists that feel confident to handle even the most challenging circumstances if and when they arise are a true force to be reckoned with – it’s amazing to watch the difference it makes in action.

But first, let’s remind ourselves why some patients become difficult

There are several causes of patients becoming challenging. These include:

  • Being in pain or unwell
  • Misuse of substances or alcohol
  • Distress, anxiety and fear
  • Difficulties in communicating
  • Frustration and unrealistic expectations
  • Having had a previously poor experience
  • Difficult behaviour may take a number of different forms including:
  • Being controlling or demanding
  • Being unwilling to listen or cooperate
  • Making threats or verbal abuse
  • Becoming physically violent to property or people

The right customer service training for GP practices staff is the best way to equip receptionists and other frontline staff with the skills they need to address these behaviours and situations effectively and without escalating the problem further.

Identifying The Nature Of The Problem

The first step in diffusing an aggressive or difficult patient is to identify the source of their problem. Is their behaviour due to their medical condition? Or perhaps they are frustrated due to a lack of healthcare resources in your practice. If there are too few GPs that day, appointments or poor staff communication, patients are likely to have a deteriorating mood.

Getting to the heart of the problem enables frontline staff to address the issue and diffuse the situation.

Viewing The Situation From The Patient’s Perspective

It can be really difficult for those in the firing line to stay calm and patient when someone is in full-throttle complaint mode but it’s important to step back and view the situation from the patient’s perspective. Even just giving the difficult patient the opportunity to express themselves and get their thoughts off their chest often helps to relieve their distress.

Taking A Helpful Stance

Rather than having a defensive posture when dealing with challenging patients, it’s important to avoid this. Instead, finding opportunities to show empathy for the patient’s circumstances is essential, and showing a little compassion goes a long way towards helping patients fell that you genuinely care. Even just moving away from the reception desk and asking them to speak to you privately in the corridor away from other patients, can make a real difference.

Setting Boundaries

Although it’s important to show caring for even the most difficult patient, it’s important to set boundaries and limits if someone is screaming or using verbal or physical abuse. Frontline staff must be taught how to warn patients about the consequences of their aggressive behaviour via targeted GP receptionist training so that they are well-prepared to deal with the potentially traumatic situation when it arises.

Assessing The Risks

Sometimes, there may be situations in which other patients or staff members could be at risk. It’s important to be able to spot when a patient may become aggressive and to take proactive steps to control the situation. If staff are unable to calm the patient, they need to know what to do to contain the patient and reduce the possibility of injuries both to the patient themselves and others in the vicinity.

Getting The Right Training For Frontline Staff

Unfortunately, targeted GP receptionist training is often under-funded and as a result, frontline staff are left ill-equipped to handle potentially stressful situations with difficult patients. Finding the right primary care training if you’re able to therefore is essential. Orr Medical Training’s Effective Customer Service course is one of the best options.

Through an interactive workshop that explores the most common challenges that frontline staff face and the effective techniques which can address them, this course improves staff morale, patient satisfaction and the practice’s reputation in the most cost-effective and efficient manner.

What Makes The Best Leader In Primary Care Networks?

Practice managers have a difficult job to do.

But you knew that already. “It might as well be tattooed to my head, Matt!”

And now you don’t just have managing the day to day running of your busy GP practice to worry about. You’re also expected to be an effective leader, motivating staff and maximising their productivity in a stressful environment.

With the introduction of primary care networks and collaboration being the order of the day, it’s never been more important to invest in your development and skillset to successfully steer and navigate your practice ship.

So today with my GP and trainer hat on, I wanted to share what I believe makes a good leader in practice and how the right GP practice manager training courses can help you maximise your potential and get the most from your staff and colleagues.

What Makes A Good Leader?

Experts agree that there are a number of factors that are essential for managers to become the best leaders. These include:

  • Coaching employees instead of driving them
  • Cultivating goodwill without relying solely on authority
  • Generating enthusiasm rather than inspiring fear
  • Using “we” not “I”
  • Fixing problems instead of blaming others
  • Leading by example – showing how things should be done instead of simply telling others how to do them
  • Developing people rather than using them
  • Giving credit instead of solely taking it
  • Asking instead of commanding

In my experience, the key to good leadership and effective GP practice management has to be good staff morale.

By giving your team ongoing training, career development, personal support and well-structured appraisals, by acting on feedback from staff members and targeting problems efficiently, it’s possible to run a positive and productive practice. The right primary care training for practice managers is therefore vital.

Taking Steps To Good Leadership And Effective Practice Management

Here are a few steps which can pave the way to effective practice management and good leadership:

  • Celebrating staff achievements and rewarding good work. Staff will work harder when they know their efforts are appreciated. Even the little things. I used to know a practice manager that gave out Creme Eggs to reception staff who had gone above and beyond that day, together with a note ‘Thanks for being a good egg!’ She had a huge stash of them in her desk drawer; goodness knows how she wasn’t tempted to scoff a couple!
  • Setting coherent goals. Staff need to be aware of the aims and values of their employers. With the right mission statement, employees can have a better understanding of why they do what they do.
  • Knowing the way in which your employees work. Effective people management must adapt to the needs of different individuals and their own unique working styles. Some people like to take things away to read and process, others are happy to jump right in with change. It is only by doing this that each individual’s performance can be optimised and the productivity of the team can be increased.
  • Encouraging staff strengths. Encouraging those who have particular skills in specific areas is vital to improving moral while also helping them to make a greater positive contribution to the GP practice. You never know; you might have a social media extraordinaire, a pushy patient pleaser or a web guru amongst your team if you ask.

Finding The Best GP Practice Manager Training Courses

At the moment, there are few development and training programmes tailored to meet the specific needs of GP practice managers in primary care networks in particular. Today’s NHS is a challenging and changing environment as we know, so finding the best ways to meet patients’ needs couldn’t be more important.

Practice managers must be well-equipped to take the lead, steering their staff in the right direction to enhance the patient experience and to provide first-class care. They can only do this if they have the right primary care training to teach them these vital skills.

Orr Medical Training’s Leadership In General Practice course represents an ideal solution which of course I’m going to say but we’ve seen amazing results through it. Aimed at meeting the training needs of those in GP practice management positions, this interactive workshop is designed to explore the ideas of practice leadership while also exploring a range of management styles and concepts and the ways in which they can be most effectively applied to their responsibilities and work.

The great benefit of this course is that practice managers can return to their workplace fully charged and equipped with the essential knowledge they need to motivate their teams, to boost staff morale and to improve patient experiences. Get in touch and learn more today.

Don’t Waste Your Money on a Practice Extension or New Building!

Bursting at the seams?

On various visits to practices, one of the biggest gripes I hear is “we haven’t got enough space”. To be specific, not enough clinic space.

It’s often a reason why practices won’t take on registrars, medical students or develop the practice in other ways such as modernising the workforce by adding allied healthcare practitioners.

There’s an easier solution

It might surprise you and many practices I’ve worked with have tried it.

When considering lack of space, the first thing people think about is building work, extensions, moving, new builds etc. This is always the expensive and stressful solution to the problem.

But what if there was another, much easier way?

The first thing to do is ask the question: during working hours, are all the clinical rooms used at all times for only clinical work?

This means dealing with patients, whether face-to-face, on the phone or online, not any time of admin such as processing blood results, scripts etc.

The best way to do this is to conduct a room use audit. Start by looking at the appointment screens and noting how many hours in the day each room has not got patients booked in. Then total up the hours. This is time that could be used for clinical contact.

Practices will often find that there are a great many hours of available clinical space when patients could be dealt with, but the rooms are taken up with other tasks such as admin.

How do we utilise the space better?

To allow clinicians to conduct their admin and other non-patient-facing tasks, they still need somewhere to work with access to the clinical system. An ideal option is to create a clinical admin space or a hub, where clinicians can work together in the same room.

This has lots of benefits, not least of reducing the isolation felt by clinicians working the majority of their time on their own in practice and also the ability to cross check or ask for advice.

The space doesn’t need to be huge or palatial. It only needs enough space to house a few computer workstations and telephones, as not all clinicians will be using it at the same time. In many surgeries, there are often neglected small rooms that could fit this function perfectly with some minor investment, or why not use the neglected staff room piled high with junk, that would be ideal as a clinical admin hub?

But it’s my room!

The biggest hurdle to overcome is the ‘it’s my room’ syndrome.

I like to offer this as an option to the partners: would you rather spend £50,000 each on an extension you don’t need, or let someone use your room for a few hours a day?

It’s a no brainer really, but you’d be amazed how many people would still rather build an extension. Some GPs are very territorial over their workspace.

One way of helping your team to ‘let go’ of their claim over rooms is to de-personalise them. Removing photos, kids’ paintings and personal clutter makes the room into a neutral shared space, rather than a personal one.

This is also a perfect opportunity to standardise the rooms, so you can find the same things in the same place in each room. The use of wheeled boxes (like many reps use) to move your kit in and out of rooms at the end of a session allows you to have all your equipment and home comforts, but lets you move them easily.

What about the surgery times?

Another common barrier to utilising this system is the “we only need people to work during morning and evening surgery times” problem.

Why is that? It’s just habit. These times certainly don’t suit all patients and don’t suit quite a few clinicians.

Lots of patients would be delighted with a lunch-time appointment and some clinicians would equally be at home starting after the morning school run, perhaps doing visits or admin first and then doing the largest part of their clinical work in the middle of the day. Equally early morning or late surgeries would be music to the ears of busy commuters. There are endless combinations that could be adopted. It just takes some flexibility.

It’s all about change

The solution to most surgery’s space problems is easy. Fill your clinical rooms only with clinicians involved in patient contact, every minute, from when the surgery opens until the surgery closes. For most surgeries open from 08:00 to 18:30, that gives you a maximum of ten and a half hours of patient-facing time per room, per day.

The main problem is change.

People don’t like it, particularly GPs who have sat in the same chair, at the same time every day for the last few decades. Some will have spent more time there than at home or with their children over their lifetimes, so giving up their routine and personal space is a battle, even if it means the alternative is parting with a huge sum of money to provide clinical space elsewhere.

It’s not an easy change to make, but the potential rewards are huge.

To learn more about what our consultancy can offer your practice drop us a line at admin@orrmedical.co.uk

Terminally Bored – Making your way through medical jargon

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

If any more proof were needed that medical jargon can overwhelm, it’s that 45-letter word right there (Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is actually a type of lung disease; it’s also the longest word in any English dictionary). Ouch.

Bemoaned by patients and NHS staff alike, medical terminology can (and is) tough to get to grips with. But it’s also critically important. Here’s why…

Medical terminology – A painful must-learn for all

From surgery receptionists to admin staff, there are an endless number of NHS workers who support the work of nurses, doctors and other medical professionals. Just one wrong word on the paperwork could have serious consequences.

Then there’s the practice manager – the multi-talented, multi-tasker who underpins the smooth operation of the surgery. They, like doctors, nurses and other staff, are time-pushed. Those minutes saved by him or her having a solid working knowledge of medical terms will always prove helpful.

Finally, there’s another issue. While most patients dislike and avoid medical jargon like the bubonic plague, others may pick up on key medical words and terms that are relevant to them. And if the surgery receptionist greets their medical jargon with a blank look, trust can be diminished before the patients even set foot into the treatment room.

With everyone on the same page, communication is more efficient, room for error is lower and interactions with patients can instil trust.

So, if you’re sitting comfortably (full cup of caffeine hopefully in hand), we’ll begin.

The basics of medical terminology – Four elements, one word

Medical terms can have up to four distinct sections – the root word, the beginning (prefix), the end (suffix), and combining vowels. Let’s explore each one by one.

Root words
The medical world really started gaining pace in Ancient Rome, where Latin, alongside Greek, were the spoken languages. Because of this as the medical profession developed, everything from illnesses to instruments were bestowed with Latin names. These words now underpin the medical profession of today.

Here’s a few examples (you can find the complete list of hundreds of root words over on the Wikipedia page – List of medical roots, suffixes and prefixes, the latter two we dig into in a moment)…
Card – Heart
Ost – Bone
Odont – Tooth
Uro – Urine
Crani – Skull
Encephal – Brain

Beginnings (prefixes)
A prefix, as the name suggests, is the opposite to a suffix and is a term that starts a root word to provide more detail to it. Some examples include…
Anti – Against
Tachy – Fast
Cycl- Circle/cycle
Dermat – Skin
Cerebr – Brain

Endings (suffixes)
Suffixes are tacked onto the end of a word. Again, this is to provide more detail. You may recognise the following common medical suffixes…
Scope – Viewing instrument
Ium – Structure
Acusis – Hearing
Aemia – Blood condition

Combining vowels
As you may now realise, there are some root words/prefix/suffix combinations that lead to complicated, unpronounceable words. For this reason, medical terms become that little bit more complicated with the addition of a vowel (which ensures that people can actually say them!).
Any vowel – a, e, i, o or u – can be used, but it’s most common to see ‘o’ as a combining vowel.
Cardi-o-scope – Instrument for examining the heart
Cardi-o-logy – The study of the heart and how it works
Tachy-card-ia – A rapid heart rate
My-o-card-ium – The muscle tissue of the heart

Acronyms
Acronyms break down multiple words by *usually* taking the first letter of each and using them to form a new word – like TCI which requests a patient ‘To Come In’ to see their clinician. We say *usually* as there are some exceptions to this rule, such as QDS meaning four times a day. This acronym comes from the Latin ‘Quarter die Sumendum’.

Tachy-o-Encephal-Test – the WTF?! Medical Acronym Pop Quiz

By now you should be feeling a little less overwhelmed with what *did* feel like endless medical terms.
To put your medical term knowledge to the test, let’s see if you can tackle the following 15 time-saving acronyms:

DNA
BP
CKD
FBC
EPS
HYP
MI
AST
IUD
CS
OST
QOF
DRS
TIA
NSAIDS

Before you go…

If this blog has shown anything, it’s that medical jargon can be dull and heavy on the brain cells. Our ‘Understanding Medical Terminology’ course makes learning medical words and terms fun (yes, really).

Through interactive sessions and group tasks, you and your team can improve your and their ability to use medical words and terms with confidence.

Learn more about our bore-free Medical Terminology Course.

Why Does Your Primary Care Network Need A Strategy?

The start of the journey for Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in May 2019 is just the beginning. 

To take your Network to the next stage of being operational, you will require a strategy that considers how it will operate and provide joined up models of care to benefit your local residents.

Luckily, Orr Medical Training can help. Download our handy factsheet on how your PCN can be strategy-ready.

Why Does Primary Care Training Sometimes Fail?

I was chatting to a few practice manager colleagues last week and the topic got onto GP reception staff training – always of interest to a GP and training practitioner like myself.

They were recalling past training sessions that had failed to have the desired effects; the change in behaviours, the way people just returned to the old ‘safe’ ways of doing things after a fortnight. I hasten to add they weren’t talking about Orr Medical Training of course but it got me thinking.

What are the most common reasons why primary care training fails? After working in the training field for many years, I’ve seen the following circumstances contribute towards why training – and group training in particular – doesn’t always go to plan plus how to resolve this.

3 Key Reasons For Training Failure

  • Staff are required to attend training without being given specific information about how it will specifically benefit them individually
  • Staff fail to fully engage with the training due to poor delivery methods
  • The training is delivered online rather than on a face to face basis leading to a lack of engagement.

Let’s break these down a little further.

Sending an employee to learn something that’s not instantly applicable to their everyday to-do list is a massive time waster. Sometimes on my courses, I’ll also come across practice staff who have been sent on training they don’t feel they need either. Number one job for you as a practice manager: explain to me how this course is going to make my life (not Susan or Debbie’s) easier and give me ideas I can use immediately.

Next up – let’s talk training methods. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called in to ‘retrain’ teams because the previous training provider used outdated or boring training methods. Death by Powerpoint lectures, cringe-worthy ice-breakers or facilitators that dominate the discussions are all common culprits. And it’s really hard to have a good group discussion when the room is packed to the rafters. Even the most experienced trainer will struggle to check-in with each learner in this scenario.

And what about delivery method? Some courses are perfect to study online. Learners can study at their own pace, in their own time. Others that deal with any form of communication or practical task, I’d argue are always going to be more effective delivered face to face. Why? Because how else are staff going to learn the practical ‘how to’ examples and test these out safely for themselves?

Failed Training – An Expensive Problem

So nobody can deny the need for GP practice staff to have regular access to training courses. After all, training is key to delivering the high level of patient care that is essential at the point of delivery. However, when the training on offer fails to engage the staff who are attending, the financial impact can be serious. We know NHS funds are already severely limited. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer not to waste them on poor quality training. Not only is it a waste of money, it is also a waste of valuable NHS staff time who we desperately need onside.

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to a practice manager who mentioned she had quite a young workforce in reception. The team had received some customer service training, but they reported back to the practice manager they hadn’t really got anything from it and the trainer had ‘droned on’ too much. When she told me this story, I knew the reason straight away. The trainer had failed to take today’s young people’s learning styles into consideration. Younger people learn differently nowadays and get bored very quickly. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact; they’re taught differently now too. If the training isn’t entertaining or they’re not called upon to interact and participate, the trainer has lost.

With general practice under considerable pressure, it’s vital to ensure that staff spend their time only on worthwhile activities that can genuinely improve the patient experience and service delivery.

Resolving The Problem

The good news is that there are many excellent training courses out there for NHS frontline staff which represent outstanding value for money. The key to their success lies in their high level of staff engagement and participation. By allowing attendees to interact with the material and by offering real-life, practical examples which staff can relate to, the best reception staff training courses achieve the desired goal of increasing staff knowledge and expanding their skillset so that they can deal more effectively with patients and ensure the best possible level of service and care at a potentially challenging time in their lives.

How To Choose A Training Course For Your Frontline Staff

With so many GP practice staff training courses out there it can be hard to select the right one for your own frontline staff team. However, when it comes to finding an engaging, practical course that offers good value for money, there are a few key tips to keep in mind:

  • Always obtain case studies and testimonials from the course provider to ensure that previous course participants have been satisfied with the results.
  • Enquire about the trainer’s background. You need to be certain they have a strong understanding of the reality of working in a general practice environment, not just a generic trainer with no expert knowledge.
  • Find out how the course is delivered. Is it on a face to face basis? Does it involve practical activities and interactive elements? Is there a maximum delegate limit – smaller groups of less than 12 are best in our experience.
  • Does the course content sound like the previous training session you ran? Was it a success or could you spice things up with new trainers, different teaching styles especially for staff taking the same training again?
  • Ask about the training materials. Can you see an example of them to make sure they’re going to be in a format your team will understand and engage with afterwards and importantly, to make sure they are up to date?
  • What sort of follow-up training or support do they offer to participants? Will the provider bolt off into the sunset without so much as an email or phone number for support afterwards?
  • Finally – and this is a job for you – is the learning environment the best it can be? It sounds basic but learning can’t take place if people are too warm, too cold. Think about comfort. Think about the refreshments. Are they going to be distracted?

Orr Medical Training’s Outstanding Courses

I hope that’s given you plenty to think about and it goes without saying, when it comes to selecting the right training for your reception staff, Orr Medical Training are proud to offer some of the best courses around today.

We only use dedicated experts in their field, not generic trainers, who can’t answer the difficult questions because they are out of their depth. We only use bang up-to-date course materials too, written by the expert trainer themselves. And we always provide follow up and support as part of all our training packages.

With many of our practical courses offered as engaging half day workshops, these courses are a valuable use of NHS funds and staff time. Browse our courses and let’s work together soon.

Get in touch today for a no-obligation discussion.

Staff Training: Why It’s A No-Brainer for Every Practice

Day in, day out, me and my team are out training and chatting to GP practice teams across the country. As a GP myself, I’m no stranger to the fast-moving world of general practice.

To say we encounter a phenomenal mountain of work on a daily basis is an understatement!

Everyone feels the pressure.

And it’s practice staff on the frontline that often bear the brunt of frustration from patients and the constant need to be able to respond swiftly to requests.

So just thinking about the sheer workload you’ve faced as a practice since the New Year, can you be sure that your staff have received the training they need to support them in their roles right now?

If your practice manages to tick along every day, it’s easy to assume that you don’t need to think about training (“not this month, Matt – our new receptionist is a whizz with the patients” I heard the other day). However, investing in your staff by providing ongoing training could make a surprising, sustainable difference.

If you’re already running ongoing training, I’m preaching to the converted, but here are a few of the reasons why I’ve found staff training as a GP is so essential for the practice teams I work with:

Protecting Staff

Stress can be a big problem for all employees working within the NHS, and research suggests that many are considering leaving their role as a result.

While you can’t do much to summon up surplus resources out of thin air, there are some steps you can take to make the most of what you have. Training helps staff to maximise the skills and knowledge available collectively as a team and to be more effective with the time at their disposal. This creates a positive cycle where staff become more efficient and feel less stressed as a result, which in turn improves efficiency further – and so on.

With rising workloads and unrelenting pressure, it’s important that our frontline staff feel valued and appreciated. By taking the time to invest in their personal development, you will not only help to improve practice efficiency, but morale will improve as well.

Future-Proof Your Practice

Balancing the books can be difficult for GP practices and this means that no-one has lots of spare staff floating around. If someone leaves, it can leave an instant and sometimes painful long gap in frontline services. Struggling to train someone new while maintaining business as usual can be almost impossible.

Cross-training staff isn’t just good for personal development, it’s also beneficial for the practice. By having multiple people within the practice trained across various roles, it means you won’t have a sudden gap in the event of long-term illness or resignation.

Training isn’t just about sideways movement either; it also provides the opportunity for proactive succession planning. By preparing individuals for promotion, you will be future-proofing your practice across the board.

Keeping Up with Industry Standards

Even though your staff might be doing a stellar job and delivering an excellent service, there’s still a need to keep up with changes in the industry and the wider NHS.

Training can help your staff to keep up with industry best practice and also stay abreast of regulatory updates. Whether it’s training frontline staff on areas such as GDPR or updating practice managers on changes to employment law, it’s essential that everyone is up to date on the crucial knowledge within their role.

Delivering A Service That Stands Out

No-one is doubting that your staff do their absolute best, but providing them with a diverse range of training can help them to provide a service that really stands out in the community.

Many practices focus on the practical elements, such as customer service or how to operate the phones, but don’t provide staff with training on the soft skills. Whether that’s time management to handle the plethora of emails in our inbox or people skills, taking a more rounded approach to include all the different areas of training could make the service something very special indeed.

Not sure where to start first? In my experience, if you ask your team, they’ll quickly tell you where the gaps are.

Ready for a Bespoke Approach?

Every practice will have different training needs depending on the level of experience of the staff, and their existing skills. Here at Orr Medical Training, we can help to design the right training package for your practice, helping to ease the burden and boost morale all around.

Get in touch today for a no-obligation discussion.

How Upskilling Staff Can Help Relieve Practice Pressure

General practice management; it’s a constant balancing act for many with the clinical requirements and needs of caring for patients against non-clinical administration and business models.

A recent report on primary care in the NHS from Cogora found that the morale of all staff within the NHS is at a six year low and a large proportion of NHS workers are feeling overworked and under-appreciated.

Add to this fears over Brexit which, according to Cogora, more than 75% of NHS workers believe will have a negative impact on clinical staff, especially nurses.

So what can we do as practice managers or partners to help our teams feel safe, supported and empowered?

– What can we do to help our clinicians focus on care that we might not already be doing?
– And what can we do differently to utilise the unique skills of our receptionist and admin teams in order to keep care organised and flowing smoothly?

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen first-hand the enormous benefits of upskilling your admin teams to take on clinical document processing through our popular course. Here’s what we’ve found:
 

Diversify admin staff roles

The role your backroom administration staff takes on varies, but rarely involves anything related to the clinical side of the business with the clinical staff usually having to deal with their own admin along with trying to juggle caseloads.

However, admin staff are extremely skilled at administration, so they are a brilliant resource to use to take the pressure off the clinical staff like doctors, healthcare assistants and nurses. This allows the clinical staff to focus entirely on dealing with their patients, rather than worrying about admin.

Naturally some admin will need to be dealt with by the clinicians due to the nature of their role, but a large amount could become the responsibility of non-clinical admin staff. It is estimated almost 90% of a GP’s correspondence can be managed successfully by admin staff with appropriate training.

This correspondence – clinic letters, discharge summaries, screening results etc– is time consuming for clinicians to deal with and can take up valuable time which would serve the practice better if it were patient-facing rather than tapping away at a computer.
 

Make your practice more efficient

Clinical document processing was a key way to release time for care in NHS England’s ten ‘High Impact Actions’, designed to make General Practice more efficient and the use of primary care providers more valuable to their practices.

Since 2016, there has been funding provided by NHS England to CCGs throughout the country to give as many practices as possible access to this kind of training.

The Orr Medical Training team has been delivering this course since 2017 and has often been called in by practices where other clinical document processing training has left them with no clear direction how to get started with the process.

Our training helps to drastically reduces the time clinical staff spend on documentation, with the amount of admin requiring the attention of a GP being reduced by up to 80% in many cases. In real terms, this means that a single GP could free up almost 45 minutes of time per day – the time for at least a handful of appointments in many practices.
 

Improve staff morale

Upskilling backroom staff is a great way to improve the morale of backroom staff by demonstrating your confidence in their ability to handle these extra responsibilities.

Handling clinical documents isn’t too different from their normal day to day duties in practice, but giving them the skills and extra training required will make them feel empowered and improve their morale.

This in turn will have a positive impact on the customer service of the practice, leading to a more efficient workforce, happier patients, and staff that are confident in their role. Extra training and increased responsibilities also provide progression opportunities for members of staff, which will help them map out their careers and give them something to work towards and achieve.

Along with improving the roles of the non-clinical staff, implementing this kind of measure will also help clinical staff regain control of their workloads as they will only have to concern themselves with correspondence that needs their attention, rather than every piece of clinical correspondence.

If you’re yet to see the benefits of clinical document processing within your practice, why not get in touch to learn more about our practical training sessions.