Compliance means to ‘conform to a rule’ and the ones we’re all too familiar with in general practice are policies, procedures, protocols and legislation, writes Survindar Chahal – First Practice Management
The number of rules and requirements is rising – I get requests at least once a week from subscribers who are saying they’ve been asked by their CCG or PCN for a policy on X to prove they’ve done Y in case of Z. The ultimate goal of all these policies and procedures is compliance, but you want your team to actually understand and follow what it says as well.
Policies set expectations
Those documents will allow you as the PM to set the boundaries – standards of safety, confidentiality, behaviour and performance for all your practice staff. As a result, these policies and procedures will clearly define and set the expectations and be a guide or reference point to see if they are meeting those requirements.
Keep the staff – and management – accountable
Compliance is also about setting standards for how management treat the practice staff and how they carry out practice business. A fair process for recruiting people that doesn’t discriminate, managing staff without threat of bullying or discrimination are examples of ho
This provides guidance to managers for how they are to conduct themselves and the standards they will be held to, but also provides transparency to the rest of the workforce as they can see the standards expected of their leaders and what they can in turn expect from their managers.
People know where to go for help
Policies should have a point of contact for queries or actions so staff know who they can contact. Compliance says that ‘you need to have this process in place in case something happened – if it does, you need to know what to do’. If there was a building on fire, you’d know to call 999; likewise, if you found a data breach, your policies will tell you the next steps and who you should contact to comply with the regulations.
Keep things legally compliant
Legislation is what drives compliance for businesses, and a GP practice also has the additional clinical and NHS contractual requirements to follow as well. Health and safety legislation will help practices to provide a safe workplace as a legal requirement, as well as an infection control policy to protect staff and patients that use your services. Both of these will need clear communication from the employers on their obligations, but also set out what actions and commitment from staff to take their own obligations seriously.
Promoting compliance in the workplace
The challenge for the modern GP practice is to make compliance easy for staff to follow and implement, but also to have a system that is manageable and low maintenance. While creating strong policies is a start, the teams will need to understand and adhere to the guidance put in place;
Make sure they are easy to understand
If you want staff to understand your policies, then make them easy to read;
- A well planned document template and structure, e.g. introduction, table of contents, etc.
- Use simple to understand language and avoid unnecessary jargon or academic language so it is easy to digest.
- Keep sentences short and as straightforward as possible.
Be clear and precise
Policies need to be as specific as possible so that staff can understand what to do (or not to do) and how to do it. Some of the policies I had to read as a new PM were pages and pages long – I’m talking at least a third of a ring binder! I’d have to read them a few times over and then make my own notes so I could understand what the key points were, and often the original policy was too open ended to inform me what I should be doing.
Thankfully, the days of shelves full of binders are now being replaced by shared online access to all your documentation. Whether it is across your practice sites or a local network, technology has made it easier for staff to access all the documentation they need, and thus it can be properly distributed to all staff.
Most of these modern document management systems will allow for a digital sign-off, so once a staff member has read the document, they can sign that they have read and understood it. Some systems will also create a record of policy management and training so you can keep an auditable list of who has/hasn’t read these policies and chase them up as necessary.
Regular reviews and training
Policies are not static documents – processes, requirements and processes will change, so your documents will need to be kept up to date. It is vital to continually review compliance with regulations that practices work under, whether health & safety, risk assessments or changes in safeguarding practices. Some changes may seem minor but will have a big impact on how you carry out a process but are vitally important.
Training should be an ongoing process – whether it is online or face to face learning, you can keep track of staff understanding and keep them up to date on any changes.