The secret to a thriving GP Practice – and how to take on 8,000 new patients without buckling

It goes without saying that these are really tough times for general practice. Workloads are crippling, recruitment is increasingly difficult and staff morale is rapidly dropping.

Practices sinking ever further into the morass often don’t have the time and space they need to think about solutions to these issues – the day-to-day chaos of work simply gets in the way.

So how do the practices that are fighting for survival reframe their futures, get out in front of recruitment issues and energise their staff to create a thriving working environment?

Embracing a team vision will propel you forward

I’ve just revisited a practice I did some work with back in October 2019, a few months before the pandemic. At the time we developed work around their mission, their vision and their values and came up with a plan based on those principles.

This time around, we had an absolutely fantastic development session where it was clear that everybody had taken that work to heart and got together to make that plan a reality and implement that mission, the vision, and the values.

They demonstrate that in literally everything they do. That includes the staff knowing and understanding the mission, the vision and the values of the practice. That knowledge came up as part of their Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection – and it went down an absolute treat with the inspectors.

This thriving practice has a full complement of staff and they don’t have a problem recruiting. It’s a primary care network in its own right and it has just over 30,000 patients. Being one big practice that is also a network definitely makes things easier for them.

But their ability to differentiate and their willingness to make changes is what put them in this fantastic position.

8,000 extra patients? No problem.

That piece of work got me thinking about a quote I came across this week in a book I’m reading called Leadsology: The Science of Being in Demand by Tom Poland. The quote is by Coco Chanel, who said: “In order to be indispensable, one must be different.”

That quote links directly to the practice. It’s growing and doing really well, attracting another 8,000 patients on top of the list they had when I worked with them in 2019. Most practices would buckle if they had additional patients coming towards them in that kind of number but this one is coping with it.

How? They are being consistent and persistent in their approach and it’s paying off.

Review your mission and development plan to stay relevant

We refreshed their mission, vision and values, making sure everything is still valid and up to date. We also looked at the development plan – we didn’t do anything tactical, everything was explored from a strategic point of view.

And we essentially looked at three questions:

  • What’s the vision for the practice?
  • What’s the vision for them individually as partners in their personal life?
  • And what’s their vision for themselves in their professional life?

As part of that, I asked them to focus on their motives for wanting to do something. And then I started to capture the feedback so that by the time we got to the end of the facilitated session, they had come up with six areas they want to look at, which we broke up into top priorities and secondary priorities.

They’re going to take the top three priorities back to the practice, engage the teams, and start to allocate the projects to individuals who will look at the tactical aspect of being able to implement them.

In a lot of instances that implementation will require them to have partner organisations that help them. But because they’re very persistent and very consistent in their approach, they have partners in the local council, the community and voluntary sector, the hospital trust, community services and the mental health trust all willing to work with them because they’re known for innovating and operating in a different way.

Could you benefit from changing the way you work?

Which brings us back to Chanel’s quote – this practice really shows that in order to be indispensable, one must be different.

It is very different to the vast majority of general practices. That’s not a dig at any other practice that isn’t in the same position. But the point is that if you do take that innovative approach and you do start to become different in your outlook and your approach, you can absolutely change things.

I’ve said a number of times in these blogs that unless you’re 100 per cent happy with your current outcomes, you need to change things to get a better outcome. That’s the process I started with this practice back in 2019. They agreed to make changes and they then implemented them. Working with them has been an absolute joy.

So if you’re part of a struggling practice or primary care network or GP federation and you think you might benefit from an away day or a review to help you map out how things can improve, then schedule a call with me.

Even if it’s just an initial conversation that doesn’t go anywhere – you never know what you can change until you try.

Fed up of pulling in different directions? I help GPs, PCNs, GP federations, and Integrated Care Systems tackle their communication and process challenges to build sustainable and resilient practices that produce better outcomes for all. If you’d like to find out more, schedule a call today.