Mathew Wright is Managing Partner at Lea Vale Medical Group in Luton
The importance of leadership within primary care is at an all-time high. The emergence of primary care networks (PCNs) is propelling managers and GPs into leadership roles that they are potentially unprepared for.
Have you ever had trouble trying to align the visions of your team of receptionists as to why the practice needs to implement certain changes? Imagine not only having to sell your practice’s vision but also that of the PCN, the Integrated Care System and the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership. How do you get your staff working harmoniously towards those? Daunting, right?
After studying the ‘leadership and personal effectiveness’ module of the Diploma in Advanced Primary Care Management, this task became an opportunity rather than something that was likely to fail.
I am a managing partner at an 11-partner practice serving a population of 25,000 patients. I am extremely passionate about primary care. I believe in the essential role of the practice manager and the huge impact on patient care that positive leadership can have. I have worked at the practice for 12 years and during that time I have attended many leadership and management courses in the effort to progress my abilities.
The diploma’s ‘leadership and personal effectiveness’ module taught me more than all of the other courses combined.
My initial response when I discussed enrolling on the diploma with a colleague was: “Sixteen hours of studying per week?! You must be mad if you think I have time for that!”
I am so grateful that I changed my view and made the commitment to enroll. A vast array of aspects of leadership and schools of thought are explored in the module. We studied the obvious ones such as strategy setting and delegation and also the less obvious but equally important aspects such as communication style – not just personal communication but organisational. Have you ever thought about how and why your organisation communicates? We learnt persuasion techniques, presentation style, stakeholder consideration and the importance of embracing differing agendas.
It has been refreshing to be joined on the diploma by clinical directors of PCNs as well as practice managers and commissioners. The responsibility of leadership does not rest with one department – it is the responsibility of all of us.
Having guidelines, mandatory projects and contractual changes dictated to us is commonplace in primary care and across the NHS. Understanding how we, as leaders, can embrace change and positively reinforce it to our staff is one of the hardest tasks we face, especially for the practice managers who don’t consider themselves leaders. The module provided me the perspective and range of thinking that allowed me to work out for myself how to better embrace change. This is a key point of the diploma – there are no right or wrong answers. You are given the freedom to think, argue, analyse, reflect and then apply this appropriately to your day to day work.
Learning in unison with your peers is motivating. The study is expectedly hard and there is an awful lot to do, but completing the reading and exercises alongside your peers, who you know are equally as busy as you, gives you the drive to succeed. We have motivated each other along and learnt from one another. From Middlesbrough to the South coast and everywhere in between is represented within my cohort, providing a great opportunity to learn from local examples across the country.