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At the heart of general practice since 1960

How meetings help general practice

business

To busy GPs, meetings can seem like a waste of valuable time. But if your practice is to flourish as a business they are vital, says Dr Tillman Jacobi

Regular practice meetings are a crucial part of running your surgery as a business. They are also useful for clinical updates, as a platform for quick and informal communication between partners, and as team-building events. All of these make for efficiency and success as a practice.

But meetings have to be run well. First you should have a clear agenda. This should define the content of the meeting, whether those attending need to prepare anything beforehand, and who should be present.

If possible the agenda should be circulated in advance and, time permitting, those attending should be asked to comment on it.

If a meeting is a regular practice occurrence and is for a specific purpose (ie the practice finances), the agenda need not be detailed, but it should still spell out particular topics and what it is hoped the outcome will be.

Chairing the meeting

Even if it doesn't seem necessary or useful that anybody formally chairs the meeting, it could be wise to have someone acting as timekeeper and summariser. Taking minutes can be helpful, especially if it is important to have on record evidence of certain formal discussions ­ for example significant event analysis.

Formulating up to five key messages of any meeting and circulating them afterwards by e-mail is often worth the effort. This records and clarifies ideas, plans and schedules and acts as brief source of knowledge for others who could not attend for whatever reason. Obviously action needs to be taken on decisions made.

Contents

Typical themes of multidisciplinary meetings are regular updates on QOF achievements, discussing patients, and analysing day-to-day issues about running the surgery.

A wide variety of clinical and non-clinical topics can be discussed at meetings of one sort or another. Topics can be chosen or suggested by a specific person or group of people. Alternatively all those attending a meeting could suggest and choose a mix of subjects.

An excellent way to keep relationships with colleagues outside the practice alive and well is to invite experts from community services, the local hospital, PCO and so on to attend meetings, come up with ideas or impart information. Doing this means you get quality ideas and input.

The social component

In a large and busy practice it can be difficult to find the right time to fit a meeting in. This difficulty increases if clinicians work part-time or have commitments elsewhere. In this case, the social component of regular meetings becomes probably more important than the pure exchange or delivery of information.

But this social component is very important for the success and efficiency of the practice. Even if people have worked together for years, it is often surprising how much you can learn and understand about each other. Include members from all parts of the team ­ clinical as well as non-clinical staff ­ at meetings where appropriate.

It makes sense to know the cost of meetings in terms of time spent attending by highly-paid staff members. But this time commitment nearly always pays off in the long run with regards improved communication, reduced mistakes, better housekeeping, the development of new ideas and so on.

Things to consider in running meetings:

· Have a clear agenda

· Find a suitable space

· Have the right equipment

· Choose the right chairperson if one is needed

· Record decisions made where appropriate

· Take action on decisions made

· Consider inviting people outside the practice to the meeting

· Be aware of the team building importance of meetings

Tillman Jacobi is a GP in Wigginton, York

checkpoints: Yes/No

· All the relevant people were at

the meeting and came on time

· People were able to express

their views

· The meeting was of appropriate length

· People came prepared (if applicable)

· It was well chaired (if applicable)

· The meeting had a clear agenda

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