NHS England is considering offering bursaries to current and future practice managers in an attempt to attract more people into the profession and train them to work as part of larger federations.
Under the potential scheme, practice managers will be given greater educational opportunities to enhance their skills and enable them to work as part of larger new models of care, which will provide primary and secondary care.
The bursaries will benefit existing practice managers as well as people who are just leaving school and are looking to join a vocational career path.
Pulse’s sister magazine Management in Practice revealed that NHS England chiefs are currently discussing the proposals with the Practice Management Network (PMN) and the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC).
This is part of plans outlined in the GP Forward View earlier this year, which included £6m committed to upskilling GP practice managers.
Details of how the £6m practice manager development programme will be spent have yet to be released by NHS England, but Dr Robert Varnam, head of general practice development at NHS England, told Management in Practice more details will be available in the next two to three months.
Dr Varnam added: ‘What we wanted to do separately is to do something just for practice managers and professionals and we’re working with the Practice Management Network right now to plan exactly what it looks like.’
He said two priorities have come out of speaking with practice managers: ‘Firstly, making sure everyone has access to some peer-to-peer networking because some practice managers in some parts of the country are pretty isolated and it’s hard to share examples of what’s working.
“Secondly, providing more professional development and training opportunities – maybe bursaries for that – because some of our practices are doing well but are doing well with very little professional qualification support.’
Steve Williams, co-chair of the PMN, which put forward the idea of bursaries, said: ’One of the issues NHS England has is that it doesn’t really know the skill workforce.
’What we’re aiming to do is to identify who these people are, what their skill level is and where appropriate, provide them with the necessary support structure in terms of professional qualification.’
Mr Williams said the new programme will create a much-needed career path for practice managers, who sometimes ’drift into practice management’, adding that £500,000 investment would be enough to generate 1,000 qualified practice managers every year.