Join the DDA or

“So much variety, but without the risk of death”

Caldbeck Surgery PM describes his role

October 6th 2022

Tagged: Conference news

By Ailsa Colquhoun

The role of practice manager may carry a nine-page job description and suit a ‘Jack of all trades’ who is a good self-learner, but it’s a job that feels important and is the only one to have a lot of variety without any risk of death attached to it.

That’s how Caldbeck Surgery practice manager Martin Woodham described his role to the DDA conference in a presentation entitled: From Global Tech giant to an NHS dispensing practice – what I wish I had known before switching career.

Describing his role, he said he does anything that “isn’t obviously someone else’s job”. Demonstrating resilience to the rest of the team, modelling the practice’s values are core skills, he said.  

Caldbeck Surgery has a 4,400 patient list spanning over 100 sq km, comprising five partners, 26 staff, nearly all of whom are part-time. 

Before joining, he anticipated the job would be simple. “An owner-run business, quick to make decisions, with a stable, long-serving team with a great local reputation, and only one ‘customer’ and one paymaster. “How hard can it be?” he asked the DDA conference, rhetorically 

However, he said: “There’s a world of difference between a family-owned business, and one owned by five people who never get together… Yes, we have one paymaster, but they are deliberately trying to make it hard for you.” 

Among the challenges for GP practices is that the traditional business ‘levers’ – sell more; invent a new product/stretch an existing one; change business model to reduce costs; partner with complementary businesses; put your prices up – are not available. Most costs are close to fixed, and the bulk of income is fixed. “Managing to increase/ maintain profit takes creativity,” she said. 

In addition, GP partners can have different priorities, such as care or income. There is also erosion of core GMS in favour of PCN support, and questions such as: How much Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) money is being used, or is being captured by practices rather than suppliers?  

Concluding, he described practice staff as “capable, resilient people”. He added: “There’s a strong correlation between practice profitability and quality. I have high hopes that dispensing practices will continue to be at the forefront of quality patient care.” 

View the presentation: From Global Tech giant to an NHS dispensing practice – what I wish I had known before switching career