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The five-minute practice manager – How to get actions from meetings completed without being the one to do them

by in GP Practice Management

We’re continuing our five-minute delegation series with an easy win for PMs. Of course, it won’t work for all meetings, because some are too confidential to be dealt with by someone else. But even if you can’t onward delegate, we’ll show you how you can achieve the same aims but with less aggravation. In either event, it will undoubtedly improve your ability to move on with things.

We’ve all attended meetings where actions are agreed but nothing happens between one meeting and the next.

Suddenly, the day before the next meeting, the minutes from the last one are circulated, and during a few heart-stopping moments, everyone with an action from the previous meeting rushes to get it done. Except it doesn’t work; the person they need to speak to is on annual leave, they’ve got a full clinic and two emergency visits booked, or they’re always terrible at getting anything done on time.

Lack of progress between meetings means that you’re never really ready to move forward, and there’s nothing more frustrating than months of discussions on the same issue. So what can you do to improve the situation?


What: Improve accountability for meeting minutes and actions.

Who: Any suitable team member – it might be a different team member for each different type of meeting.

Resources: Mostly time; you’ll need enough time for someone to collate minutes and actions, and chase these up, potentially as often as weekly. Once people are more used to this kind of accountability, the amount of chasing up should reduce drastically.

Benefits: A more mobile and agile practice, with less delay between actions being suggested and completed.

How long (estimated): This depends on the number of meetings you hold and the ability of the minute taker. Time needed should reduce after a period of adjustment.

Related KLOEs (these are the KLOEs we think this could be used for as evidence, depending on the types of meetings included)

W1.2 Do leaders understand the challenges to quality and sustainability, and can they identify the actions needed to address them?

W2.4 Do staff know and understand what the vision, values and strategy are, and their role in achieving them?

W2.6 Is progress against delivery of the strategy and local plans monitored and reviewed, and is there evidence to show this?

W3.9 Are there cooperative, supportive and appreciative relationships among staff? Do staff and teams work collaboratively, share responsibility and resolve conflict quickly and constructively?

W4.3 Are staff at all levels clear about their roles and do they understand what they are accountable for, and to whom?

W6.1 Is there a holistic understanding of performance, which sufficiently covers and integrates people’s views with information on quality, operations and finances? Is information used to measure for improvement, not just assurance?

W6.4 Are there effective arrangements to ensure that the information used to monitor, manage and report on quality and performance is accurate, valid, reliable, timely and relevant? What action is taken when issues are identified?

W7.3 Are staff actively engaged so that their views are reflected in the planning and delivery of services and in shaping the culture? Does this include those with a protected equality characteristic?

W7.5 Is there transparency and openness with all stakeholders about performance?

W8.4 Do all staff regularly take time out to work together to resolve problems and to review individual and team objectives, processes and performance? Does this lead to improvements and innovation?

What to do

Firstly, think about what the issues are.

Are your minutes released within a couple of days of each meeting? If not, this is the first point for improvement.

If you usually do the minute-taking, but struggle to produce minutes due to time pressures, shifting minute-taking to someone who has protected time will help. Minute-taking is a particular skill, and some support might be required to complete this.

Supply a standardised template for minutes and an example set of minutes so that everyone knows what’s expected of meetings and minutes. You’ll need to have this nailed when the CQC inspect. Ensure that when actions are agreed and minuted, that an appropriate completion date is agreed.

If possible, only take minutes and chase actions yourself for highly confidential meetings that cannot be delegated elsewhere.

If delays are caused because you need to get the minutes signed off before releasing them, when submitting them for approval, identify a date for release if no corrections have been received.

For example: for a weekly Monday meeting, submit the minutes for approval by the end of Tuesday, then give 5 pm on Wednesday as the deadline for any amendments. Confirm that if no modifications are received, the minutes will be released to the attendees. Set a diary reminder for these to be released on Thursday morning, allowing two days for actions to be completed before the next meeting.

Ideally, delegate all minute-taking and action-chasing, if you can. You need to implement a system where it’s clear which actions need to be completed, by whom and when.

At the end of each set of minutes, include a table that documents:

  • What actions need to be completed
  • Who is responsible for actions
  • What the anticipated completion date is
  • Where the date for completion has passed, but the actions aren’t complete, include another column with a ‘backstop date’ – add this in red. If actions become very overdue, you need to address this in a meeting: isn’t the action appropriate, is further support required, or does someone else need to intervene?

If you’ve successfully managed to delegate the minutes, allow five minutes a week for a staff member to copy and paste the table into an email, circulated to those involved in each meeting. The timing for this will depend on whether the meeting occurs weekly, monthly or less often. Ensure that any email highlights those actions that are overdue.

After the next meeting, once the minutes are updated, a relevant staff member should ensure that completed actions are removed from the chase-up email and any that are overdue are highlighted in red with the backstop date added.

Helpful hint: Before the start of any meeting, put up a chart of the outstanding actions on the wall or screen so that everyone is reminded of what’s still to be completed. A visual reminder of what needs to be completed is a very effective tool. You might even consider leaving it up there between meetings.

To help you achieve more in your day, you can find other posts in our ‘five-minute PM’ series here.

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