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Demotivated practice managers consider new career as vacancies rise 12%

Exclusive GPs face a potential recruitment ‘timebomb’ to replace practice managers leaving the profession due to stress, as agencies report a 12% increase in vacancies since January.

LMC leaders warn their practice managers are struggling under an ‘unprecedented’ workload since the introduction of the Government’s NHS reforms, and that practices may have to share staff in the future in order to survive.

A new survey of 471 practice managers reveals that two-thirds are considering a new career and the vast majority are feeling ‘demotivated’ in their current job.

It comes as practice manager organisations warn that large number of practice managers, like their GP counterparts, are in their late fifties and considering early retirement.

Recruitment agency First Practice Management has recorded an average 12% rise in practice manager vacancies advertised on its website since the start of the year.

A recent survey of 471 practice managers carried out by the recruitment agent in August found that 44% had already considered applying for a new job, 65% of whom said they would be seeking out a new career. Over two-thirds (68%) of all of the practice managers surveyed said they were feeling demotivated in their job.

More than one-in-five of the managers surveyed cited workload as their biggest concern, with the remainder citing ‘too much change’, ‘a lack of support’ and ‘too much bureaucracy’.

The report concluded: ‘Perhaps this is a timebomb [as] movement into new positions does not at present appear to have occurred in great numbers.’

Group general manager Chris Ibbetson told Pulse: ‘We have seen an average 12% increase in the number of practice manager vacancies posted on the First Practice Management website since the start of the year.’

Josiane Wadey, chair of the West Sussex Practice Managers Association, said she was increasingly hearing practice managers talk about leaving the profession since the implementation of the reforms.

She said: ‘Increasingly I hear practice managers say “time to change my career” or “I just can’t keep on top of it all” or “who else feels like they are drowning?” For clinical commissioning to work, we need to have excellent practice manager leadership as well as clinical leadership. The practice managers are the ones that just get the job done.’

Practice Management Association chair Russell Vine, who represents 8,000 GP practice managers in England, said practice managers were dealing with ‘mounting pressure’ and as a large number are in their late fifties they were considering early retirement.

Mr Vine said: ‘While the loss of these people has not yet started, I don’t think it is far off.’

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Institute of Healthcare Management, said the role of practice managers had changed with the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act.

She said: ‘They are having to develop new skills and learn how to do things differently in addition to dealing with the day-to-day requirements of the role.’

In Birmingham, small and medium-sized GP practices faced the risk of not being able to recruit good practice managers, and may have to merge or form larger partnerships in response, local leaders said.

Dr Bob Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, said: ‘The volume and breadth of work that practice managers are now having to cope with is unprecedented. They are having to deal with everything connected to the CQC, QOF and contract changes, commissioning CCG, support GPs workload, do HR and deal with revalidation.’

‘Small and medium sized practices are not going to be able to afford the calibre of practice managers they need without working with other practices,’ he added.

Wessex LMC has introduced a team of seven practice manager ‘supporters’ across the region to support and counsel practice managers.

Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard said practices should come together to employ ‘super managers’.

He commented: ‘There is no doubt that GPs cannot run a practice well without a good practice manager. Smaller practices need to start working cooperatively and collaboratively with each other.’