The General Practice Forward View focused on training and promised the funding to deliver it. Two years on, the question is, how successfully has this been implemented? Ian Jones, operations director at the Practice Managers Association (PMA), considers whether practices are consistently being given the flexibility to decide how best to use staff development funding
The BMA recently published The General Practice Forward View: two years on which raised some interesting points around the effectiveness of the programme and how successful it has been in its implementation.
The GP Forward View aimed to provide funding for the training and development of those who had long been neglected within primary care – there was an emphasis placed on practice managers and administration staff. By enhancing their capabilities, general practice would become more efficient and effective – relieving GPs of tasks which were not patient-facing.
Demand for upskilling
At the PMA there has most certainly been an increase in the demand for upskilling; the range of topics requested by NHS staff is broad, and the enthusiasm unprecedented. We find ourselves training practice managers and administration staff across entire CCGs, CEPNs and federations and the interest is unrelenting.
Despite this, the BMA report suggests that there’s still much to be done to facilitate access to allocated funding. Further, LMCs have reported that there’s inconsistency in how easy it is to secure funding – with some having to wade through extremely bureaucratic processes.
Doing the sums; practice manager training
Of the initial £6m allocated to practice manager training over the three years from 2016/17, only £1m has been spent. Three events were organised by the NHS for practice manager development and future funding is being proposed for elearning and best practice resources, diplomas in advanced practice management and national conferences with a focus on practice manager development.
However, the BMA recommends that the practice manager development programme must be improved by reviewing the guidelines so that practices are afforded the flexibility to decide how to use the funding, as well as providing the funding for training and support networks.
Upskilling reception and clerical staff
Training for reception and clerical staff has been more successful. Of the original £45m committed between 2016/17 and 2020/21 to train receptionists in active signposting, and administrative staff to deal with clinical correspondence, £10m has been allocated to CCGs and, importantly, LMCs have reported an improvement in the efficiency of practices following staff training.
So, it makes sense to encourage practice staff to move towards enhanced roles in active signposting and correspondence management as these are critical to primary care success. With funding available for the planning and purchase of training, as well as backfill costs during training time, there has never been a better time to develop staff, enhance efficiency and lift dedicated NHS staff spirits.