Six months ago, Kernow Health launched its inaugural Practice Manager Development Programme, designed for the practice managers of the future. The unique course - not seen before in the country - offers participants 12-18 months of theoretical and practical training to develop their skills, knowledge, and experience working in general practice management. We spoke to Nicola Davies who was involved in creating the programme. Nicola has trainee, Emily Poulter, working alongside her at The Roseland Surgeries and we wanted to find out how the first six months of this exciting and innovative training programme are going.
Can you explain the outline of the programme?
We started off thinking that this would be a formal apprenticeship, but it became clear that the apprenticeship model didn’t have enough ‘flex’ for us to do what we wanted – which was really to train people up to become Practice Managers. There isn’t any programme of this sort in the country – Cornwall is the first to launch, but other counties have since got wind of the idea and are thinking of rolling it out.
The course is 12 to 18 months and funding has been provided by KHCIC Training Hub. The trainees are also being supported by their practices who fund their attendance on the course days which are fortnightly. The trainees have to do a formal leadership qualification, but also learn hands on practice management tasks to enable them to hopefully do the job!
As you said, excitingly, it's the first of its kind in the country. So how did it come about?
I was aware that resilience amongst the Practice Manager workforce is low and there is no training package that would adequately enable someone to jump straight in – practice management is a very specific role and one that you cannot learn overnight. I have been working with NHS England (NHSE) with my Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) hat on (I am a director and founding member of the IGPM) and during those sessions, it became clear that whilst NHSE are fully supportive of a training pathway, this was never going to happen quickly. So, I talked with the team at KHCIC and they were hugely supportive.
How did Emily qualify for the trainee position?
The practice advertised for a trainee with a view to learning beside me, whilst undertaking the course. Emily was successful – she had previous surgery experience and was highly motivated to go into management.
How has it worked in practice?
I am responsible for supervision and training. Practice Manager tasks are broken down into bite-size chunks and Emily learns these bit by bit. It’s the only way to tackle what is an often overwhelming job.
Importantly, how have you both found it?
For me, peace of mind and a reinvigoration for a job I love, but was finding difficult to manage as work overtook everything else. Emily adds, “There is a structure, ongoing learning/training and a reassurance that I will be able to do the job when the time comes.”
What you have both gained from the process, so far?
It has given me the feeling that ultimately I can leave the practice in good hands – not yet, but soon. The handover is being managed in a slow but sensible way. This means that Emily continues to be supported by myself, and the wider team – but also that she is not overwhelmed and left ‘holding the baby’ until she is ready to do so.
Nicola Davies is pictured on the left and Emily Poulter is pictured on the right.