Many practices have discovered that recruitment into new care models is easier than when practices recruit alone. So how can this opportunity be maximised? We’ve spoken to key people around the country to find out how they see recruitment at scale working, what tips can be learnt and what insights they can offer into creating a healthy culture. So where do you start?
Flying the flag for your surgery locally
Riaz Jetha, a GP in South Lewisham, tells us that ultimately your staff will be your best way of recruiting newcomers. Advertising in Pulse and the BMJ just doesn’t cut it. He suggests you need to consider becoming a training establishment, going out to the local VTS and giving talks. By “making sure that your staff, your GPs and your practice manager are visible and flying the flag for your surgery locally”, by developing “a healthy, happy organisation”, new staff will want to become part of it.
When thinking about the kind of terms and conditions practices find work best, Will Haines, a Regional Employment Consultant for Croner Ltd, advocates looking at things like “increasing the opportunity for part-time working [and] shift patterns - although management and administration of shift patterns can be a problem.” He believes that “organisations really do need to think hard and strategise in the right way commercially when considering these kind of things just to get the right quality of applicant within their business. And, of course you can look for support externally.”
Will advocates that retaining the good people you’ve painstakingly recruited, starts at the induction. Communicate clearly what you’re expecting from your staff, the level of flexibility available, whether you’re expecting them to manoeuvre between different surgeries and whether they’re happy with that. Pay and benefits are key too. He says “it’s really important to continually review staff including their personal lives and how that impacts on retention.” If they’ve started a family, for example, can you offer them more flexible terms?
Good opportunities for flexibility and innovation
Once you’ve recruited your staff, we asked our experts how they’ve structured their collective workforces to be effective. Riaz says “working at scale can offer really good opportunities for being flexible with your workforce, being able to innovate”. He says what’s worked for them is creating roles within the practice for people they normally work with, but now use a lot more effectively, e.g. clinical pharmacists. “They’re fantastic. Not only can they streamline our prescribing processes, they can also take on the management of a lot of chronic diseases leaving the GPs and nurses to deal with the more complex cases… receptionists can ensure patients are going to the right doctor for the right problem”. It’s important to contact indemnity provider ahead of restructuring your workforce and using staff more flexibly.
New models of resourcing are really important
Graeme Cleland, MD of Taurus Healthcare, echoes the value of thinking wider. He says they’re “bringing physios into the business, pharmacists, occupational therapists and ECPs as the relationship between primary care and the wider system extends away from the traditional models”.
Conduct a skills audit
It’s interesting to ask how practices have identified skill gaps within their businesses. Riaz tells us that at the beginning of any kind of merger, it’s important to look after your most expensive resource – your workforce. He suggests a skills audit. “You can either create your own questionnaire or improvise one, which you can find on the internet. That skills audit will identify what skills you currently have in the organisation [and] what skills need a little bit of training”.
You’d be surprised about the skills you already have in your workforce
You then need to perform a gap analysis by comparing that audit to the skills your strategy requires. Riaz suggests “lots of flip chart paper, post it stickers and an afternoon away from doing clinics”, then going back to your strategy to see whether you have the skills on board to deliver it, or whether you need to train people up.
Play cricket on the beach
Combining GP practices with different structures and hierarchies can present a challenge in finding a culture that works. Iain Murray, Director of Allus Associates, a specialist consultancy set up to help primary care organisations develop their plans to become Federations. He advises “it’s really important that the practices get to know each other and to work out how they work, their own sets of values, what’s important to them. A colleague recently said to me probably the best way to do that, is to get them to go and play cricket on the beach”.
So how do practices go about creating an inclusive culture?
Will highlights inclusivity is something super practices really need to focus on. Whether that’s through formal processes like workplace committees with elected reps, or informally via suggestion boxes so staff feel like they can put an idea forward.
Developing a culture is something special that glues the organisation together
Riaz says “You need to ask all of your team, all of your staff, why are we doing this Why are we changing from one form, which is probably quite comfortable, to something which isn’t so comfortable… and we should be able to capture that in some kind of narrative or story which we can then repeat”.
He believes “culture happens in work and outside of work, at lunch breaks, training sessions, after work and it is important to recognise the importance of that time.”
Tools exist online or advises that practices might like to think about investing in some outside help to help them develop a healthy culture.
Maximise the benefit of scale
A super practice is able to offer the kind of career path that smaller practices would have struggled to. Riaz advocates maximising this. He believes GPs are looking for a lot more than just a decent remuneration package and manageable workload. They want to feel they are part of something bigger. So he suggests advertising roles with a training opportunity or diploma attached to attract candidates. Naturally this is a ‘win win’ scenario for a surgery.
Offer a structured career path
Riaz goes on to say “newer GPs also like to be heard, they want to have a genuine voice and to be able to lead on a particular area and having a larger organisation will allow you to have those opportunities for younger GPs.”
In conclusion, it seems creating a happy organisation and making your staff visible to act as the magnet for new recruits is helpful. Communicating clearly with your staff at induction so that they understand what is required of them will help to retain them as well as considering over time whether their lifestyle has changed and they may need more flexible terms. Using the scale of a super practice to work for you by being more innovative – bringing different roles into the business. Doing a skills audit to find out the skills you have within your practice and whether they match the strategy you have or that you need to do some training. Developing an inclusive culture by enabling staff to get to know each other and appreciate their common goals. Finally offering a career structure that maximises the large organisation. Then you’ll attract and keep the staff you need for success.