How do we sum up 2020? Do we really want to look back over the year? Well, January and February started out as per normal with the usual practice management pressures – PCN, annual leave, salaries, and no mention of pandemics or face coverings. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the first Practice Index coronavirus poster landed on site on February 21st 2020 – requesting that anyone returning from Wuhan and certain hot spots were required to isolate. Who could have imagined that just over a month later, the Prime Minister would announce, on 23rd March, that every single person must stay at home? Unprecedented? (Probably one of the most overused words of the year!) Yes. Stressful? Undoubtedly. Turbulent? Very!
At Practice Index we’ve tried to keep you abreast of topics that impact you, and to provide you with support during an incredibly difficult year. We’ve also tried to help you smile when the world around you is bringing you down.
So let’s revisit some of the blogs that you enjoyed most during 2020…
As one of the most misunderstood areas of practice management, the AISMA put together a useful series, in ten parts, explaining everything from basic bookkeeping through to managing partner payments, pensions and property. Easy to follow, and in accessible language, this popular series is one we think you’ll refer to time and time again.
Forum favourite Nicola Davies delivered her personal take on her current working situation in practice. Struggling with the long winter, Nicola shared her experiences of demanding patients and her hope for a better spring. Imagine if she’d known then what she knows now!
It comes as little surprise that the two most viewed blogs of 2020 were focused on managing COVID-19. March 2020 was the start of the lockdown and a total overhaul of how primary care carries out its day-to-day tasks. Telephone triage suddenly replaced face-to-face, and video calls were quickly established as being the safest way to conduct consultations that couldn’t be resolved through the rapidly launched apps.
Entrenched in adjusting to a new way of working, Nicola Davies offered some comforting words to practice teams with her blog This too shall pass – By Nicola Davies. “We are strong leaders in practice management, and we will ride out the storm!”.
As the country moved into the second month of lockdown, practices were starting to get into the swing of “the new normal”. With colleagues working from home, shielding and isolating staff, we found the forum was alive with queries on managing your teams. To help you find the answers quickly and easily, we published a FAQ blog on HR questions relating to COVID19 – Coronavirus HR FAQs – covering all the key areas of managing staff during the pandemic.
Following the suspension of the standard CQC inspection, we also brought you news of the new Emergency Support Framework – The inspector is on the blower… The Emergency Support Framework blog!.
As the sun shone in June, and during a brief respite from coronavirus, we launched our incredible PPA Toolkit (on one of the hottest days of the year!). A blog on how to check your claim for personally administered items accompanied the launch and provided guidance on how to ensure you’re maximising your income: Checking your PPA claims the easy way.
The Government announced that on 1st August, restrictions for shielding patients would be lifted, which, of course, presented challenges for PMs and practice teams. Robyn Jackson clarified how to best manage the return to work in her unique style in another timely blog, The return of the … shielders?.
Just as COVID-19 cases were starting to settle, we learnt we were about to face a flu campaign unlike anything we’d managed before. The flu vaccination was opened up to increased cohorts this year, and this change in eligibility was about to put phenomenal pressure on already strained resources.
An informative piece on managing the flu campaign was one of our most read blogs of the year – Managing the ‘biggest flu vaccination programme in history’ – coupled with Paula the PM’s whimsical take on the challenges ahead: Double the flu clinics… Is it wishful thinking? – Paula the PM .
One of the high points of 2020 was the first in the series of Practice Index podcasts in association with Ockham Healthcare. The PM panel, made up of popular forum members Nicola and Robyn, discussed with Ben Gowland how practices could take a pragmatic approach to this year’s flu programme.
PM Polly returned after an incredibly bad day in practice (and a fairly typical one it seems!), which resonated with the entire PM community. What would your answer be if you were asked by a partner how you were? Probably the same as Polly – I’m fine, thank you!
In a year where budgets were challenged more than ever, two of the most popular blogs during September focused on practice profits. AISMA specialist medical accountant Sally Sidaway offered tips on how to maintain profits in challenging times, including COVID-19-specific advice, while the second episode of the Practice Index podcast looked at how profitability had changed over the last ten years in GP practice.
Little did we realise when we first published Nicola Davies’ blog This is not so much a rant, more a ‘call to arms’ how much traction it would gain. We’ve long known that our PMs are struggling – in terms of well-being, workload, stress and a worrying number of managers indicating that they’d like to leave their roles. Nicola shared that without someone fighting the corner of the PMs – a body or union – nothing will change. And from here, the Institute of General Practice Management was born
Following on from Nicola’s blog last month, the Practice Index podcast mused over the same question, “Why are practice managers not valued?”. The blog explained, “The time is surely now for this issue to be addressed. Practice managers need some sort of voice, some national representation. Without it, it won’t just be practice managers who suffer, but the whole of general practice. Practices simply can’t afford to lose their practice managers.”
PM Polly shared her reply to residents who felt their GP practices were being unreasonable when they stated they were busy. Polly shared her relatable sentiments on just how busy you all are every day in Busy? by PM Polly.
To finish off the year, we were delighted to host the launch of the IGPM. Ending with the words, “We shall not stop; these wheels are turning, and we will be at that top table representing each and every one of you to make sure that primary care is run by the people who actually know what they’re doing” – we’re sure that 2021 will be the year they make waves!
And finally, PM Polly shared, “I have many, many moments during the day when staff members come in to see me, ring me or just tell me as I’m walking down the corridor something that makes me think internally, ‘You’re telling me this why?!’”. Again, Polly captured the mood of all our forum members, with so many of you commenting on how you felt the same!
Thank you for all your comments and feedback on the blogs during the past year. There hasn’t been a quiet day for anyone in practice management, and that’s not likely to change as we move into 2021. But we’ll be here to support you and keep your spirits up. Join us each week on the Practice Index blog for the latest in the world of primary care and practice management