Becoming a Practice Manager

Practice managers are vital to the successful running of GP surgeries. You’ll manage the business aspect of the surgery, making sure that patients are at the centre of the surgery’s operations.

To enter a career in practice management, you would typically be an accomplished manager, bringing both day-to-day management skills as well as a strategic perspective. Qualifications and experience required will vary, but you’ll usually need a management qualification, and a proven experience of motivating people.

As a practice manager, you will be responsible for the smooth running of a centre that could have a team of ten GPs and other clinical staff, with as many as 20,000 registered patients.

You will be involved in a wide range of activities, including:

  • business planning
  • handling financial systems for the practice, including payroll
  • selecting, training and supervising non-clinical staff
  • developing and supervising appointment systems that work well for patients and clinicians
  • ensuring accurate records are kept, and liaising with local health organisations such as clinical commissioning groups
  • developing strategies for the practice on issues such as computer systems and security, expanding or changing services, and long-term services

So the role usually combines:

  • personnel administration
  • payroll
  • finance
  • strategic planning
  • IT skills.

For a career in primary care practice management, you’ll need a variety of skills and qualities, typically including:

  • excellent financial skills
  • the ability to manage a changing environment
  • good communication skills
  • leadership and motivational skills
  • organisational skills
  • a willingness to work with others and respect their views
  • confidence with information technology
  • negotiating skills
  • the ability to challenge the way things are and find better alternatives
  • honesty and fairness in dealing with other people
  • a commitment to the ideals of quality and fairness in delivering healthcare.

If you’re applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services you’ll be asked to show how you think the NHS values apply in your everyday work.

The NHS values form a key part of the NHS Constitution.

Find out more about the NHS Constitution

People enter practice management from a variety of backgrounds. Experience of managing in a healthcare environment is often required or preferred. As a practice manager, you’re usually required to hold a relevant qualification – either the Certificate/Diploma in Primary Care and Health Management awarded by the Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists or the Vocational Training Scheme for General Practice Managers – awarded by the Institute of Healthcare Management.

Certificate/Diploma in Primary Care and Health Management

The DPHCM is open to existing managers and potential managers in a health or social care environment. You must be educated to level 3 standard and should have a background that will enable you to benefit from the programme.

In order to be able to take the programme, you need to be recommended by an appropriate employer and accepted by a recognised centre following interview.

The programme is included in the Qualifications and Credit Framework at level 5 and is provided by a number of AMSPAR/City and Guilds -approved centres.

The course contains modules covering the following topics in a primary care and health environment:

  • managing medical ethics and legal requirements
  • financial management and budgeting
  • managing information and communication
  • leading teams
  • developing or improving services.

There are also optional units on topics including the manager as a critical thinker; becoming an effective leader and managing recruitment.

Find out more about the DCPHM and the location of AMSPAR/City and Guilds approved centres

Vocational Training Scheme for General Practice Managers (VTSGPM)

The VTSGPM is delivered on a part time basis over a period of 36 weeks, using a blended learning model. This includes 1 full day of face to face teaching every two weeks and extra independent study in between. Guided study materials are provided and candidates are supported by appropriately qualified tutors both during attendance and distance learning processes of email, structured email tutorials, and telephone contact.

The course covers six key topics:

  • managing your enterprise
  • personal & team effectiveness
  • primary care, finance, data management & information strategy
  • quality and regulation in primary care
  • introduction to commissioning
  • medical terminology for practice managers.

Find out more about the VTSGPM from the IHM website

Practice managers may be employed on NHS terms and conditions or on those of private employers and other organisations. Pay will depend on a number of factors including the employer, location, size of practice and precise role and responsibilities.

For practice managers, salaries may range from between £30,000 and £50,000 per year. Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scales. This pay system covers all staff except doctors, dentists and the most senior managers. Practice managers employed on NHS terms and conditions could be on a salary of between AfC band 5 (if working in a small practice or as an assistant practice manager, for instance) and 8b.

It is important that you continue to learn and develop to keep your skills and knowledge up to date and ensure you continue to work safely, legally and effectively.

There are many learning activities that you can take part in such as:

  • on-the-job learning
  • courses and workshops
  • volunteering
  • computer-based learning

Depending on your precise role, you may be required to maintain your professional registration, through continuing professional development (CPD). The Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists (AMSPAR) and the Institute of Healthcare Management (IHM) provide CPD opportunities for members to maintain their registration.