Skip to main content

Escaping General Practice, head above the parapet, thinking outside the box; all titles I thought I would lead with to paraphrase what I wanted this blog to be about, but I feel they all carry a negative connotation and that is not the intention of my ramblings.

I started in a GP surgery back in 2013 as a Receptionist. I had a love/hate relationship with the role; some days I would come away feeling like I had genuinely helped and supported people, and others I felt demoralised.  It didn’t help regularly being told that if someone didn’t get their prescription immediately, then I would be to blame for their death! Admittedly, that is a bit dark for this blog but that was my reality in practice, and I imagine, for a lot of practice staff, it still is.

From Receptionist to working across other practices, to dispensing, to being an Office Manager, I found General Practice to be a somewhat turbulent but “family-esque” environment, and one that specifically struck me as having a relatively narrow line of career progression. The nature of Practice is to stay in Practice, which remains so crucial and comes with such ingrained knowledge and expertise. When it comes to progression, there is the challenge of not having the resource and not necessarily the requirement to have a lot of different non-clinical roles. This has changed a bit these days with mergers, super-practices, and single entity PCNs but still for a lot of surgeries it is a pretty streamlined organisation.

That being said, for me it provided an opportunity to experience and understand what it feels like to be on the front line of healthcare, what it is like to be the hero for a patient, as well as being the villain but little did I know, there was a world outside of these walls. A strange and unfamiliar setting, outside of the family environment I was so used to – there was life outside of the Practice! This was before the days of Localities, ‘Primary Care at Home’ or as we now know them, Primary Care Networks but as a way of progressing on my career, I managed to pluck up the courage and apply for the role of Project Manager in a big, new, shiny GP Federation.

With this came the opportunity to look at General Practice through a wide-angle lens, a different perspective of how the pieces fit together, albeit it felt like the jigsaw had a few pieces missing. And it turns out that everyone in the health and care system has a slightly different picture on the front of the box, although there is a patient on there somewhere.

This side of General Practice was fascinating and exciting and gave me the flexibility and freedom to explore how I could help and drive innovation, with less boundaries and quite frankly, what felt outside of my job description. But it showed me what made General Practice great, its ability to shape-shift and focus solely on what would improve outcomes for the patients.

This is what I see far more of today, in Practices, PCNs, Provider Collaboratives and so on. The ‘make best of what we have got’ attitude, if only we had the right resourcing, then imagine, what we could deliver. The ability to look from a different perspective has allowed me to do more for the General Practice jigsaw than I could have ever done from within the practice. Admittedly that is, at the sacrifice of an individual physically working in a Practice.

So, what am I trying to say? We need to encourage non-clinical roles within surgeries to experience life outside the practice, to broaden their horizons to provide the essential context of how the whole system works. Surely this broadened understanding can only help…at the end of the day it is bloody hard to put together a jigsaw puzzle without seeing the picture on the box!

We all agree clinical portfolio roles are essential to staff and the surrounding health economy, and they are often afforded the opportunity to see the wider world, so why don’t we do the same with non-clinical staff? Give them the opportunity to put their head above the parapet, support wider initiatives and bring them into the work of PCNs, INTs and Federations without losing them from the Surgery. The surgery and ultimately patients will benefit from the new levels of expertise and experience. It might not be for everyone, but let’s ensure we don’t stifle it when there is a chance.

Because of this I would like to think that I have put more back into my local General Practice and now further afield than I would have otherwise. So, I would encourage others working in surgeries to find the opportunity to get sight of the whole picture. Ultimately, we need to ensure that General Practice remains the corner stone of Health and Care, the knight in shining armour and the only form of contact some people have and may ever need.

I mean if this doesn’t ignite your ambition to ensure we keep General Practice alive then I don’t know what will!

Conor Price

Managing Director

Leave a Reply