The golden hello scheme was agreed as part of the 2020/21 GP contract deal and opened to applications on 1 July this year after being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Golden hello payments are available to people taking up partnership roles in general practice for the first time after 1 April 2020, and can be claimed not only by GPs who become partners, but also nurses (including ANPs), pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, physiotherapists, paramedics, midwives, dietitians, podiatrists, occupational therapists, mental health practitioners.
A notable exception to the list is practice managers. Odd, of course, because there has been an increasing number of practice managers made partners of GP practices in recent time (certainly more than most of the roles listed above!), yet they are not part of the list.
NHS England has stated on a number of occasions that they are hoping to expand the offer to include practice managers, but it is clear that there is opposition to this that is proving difficult to overcome.
This then raises the question of who is arguing the case for practice managers on a national level? Indeed, is anyone?
In technical terms, practice managers are represented as part of practices by their local LMC. The LMCs are then represented nationally by the GPC. But they are representing practices as a whole, and practice managers question whether the voice of practice managers really gets heard at that level. Indeed, there are reports of resistance within the GPC to the idea of a practice manager committee operating within it.
A recent Practice Index poll found that an astonishing 55% of practice managers are considering leaving the profession in the next 12 months. Morale across the profession, as our panel recently discussed, is at an all-time low.
The two issues are clearly linked. General practice as a whole is under huge pressure, and much of that pressure falls directly on the shoulders of the practice managers. At the same time, there is nobody fighting the corner for practice managers or acting on their behalf. They feel abandoned and alone and, unsurprisingly, many are seriously considering leaving.
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.
But the reality is that if this change is to happen, practice managers themselves will need to make it happen. Nearly all practice managers have come together on the Practice Index site. It is time to build on this unity and work together to establish a national body, whether this is a new one or part of an existing organisation.
It can be done. It will inevitably require a small number of individuals to put their heads above the parapet and take this on. More importantly, it will need everyone else to rally behind them. It may well require the profession to introduce its own accreditation. But it will be worth it because it will create a legitimacy and a national voice that to date has been sadly lacking.
Let’s hope we reach a point soon where practice managers start to be valued and recognised for the work they do, and stop being treated as second class to the clinical roles working in general practice.
Listen to our latest podcast, ‘Professional recognition of practice managers’ here.