The festive period is the busiest time of the year and GP Practices are no exception. With the impending cold weather comes the peak of the flu season, Norovirus and so much more. Each of these can place serious seasonal pressures on many GP practices and can become especially difficult to manage staff.
Many GP practices face similar challenges over the holiday season, and one of the major issues is the lack of staff available due to a multitude of reasons. Here are some of the main reasons for staff absence over winter and what you can do to combat this.
Boosting Staff Morale
Some staff over the festive period may feel like they are missing out on all the mince pies and mulled wine. Creating a festive environment and embracing seasonal joy with fun games and opportunities to involve friends and family can do wonders for staff morale.
Take for example the classic advent calendar, creating a makeshift calendar with each door containing a prize can get staff feeling merry. This doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive gifts but could be festive treats, a free lunch or an early finish. It is a nice way to treat staff and show you appreciate all the hard work they are doing over the festive period.
If you want to try boost productivity as well, setting weekly competitions can create a fun and productive environment, the competition can be based on a range of different metrics eg, best level of service given that week.
For those who may not be able to attend a festive dinner, it would be a nice gesture to offer an after-work dinner and invite family and friends to attend, so they are not missing out on all of the family festivities.
The vast majority of NHS patient interactions take place in a general practice. In winter, you have a lot of people coming into the surgery with seasonal illnesses. So, there is extra demand for GP services and fewer days to cope with the demand due to the festive period.
Even though we consider NHS staff to be superhuman sometimes, they are unfortunately still susceptible to the ailments. All NHS staff are eligible for flu shots but may not actually get round to having them administered.
To keep the team at full strength, make sure all of them get their flu jabs! This goes for doctors and nurses as well as your reception and all other members of staff!
A Skeleton Crew
For some of the key holiday dates in the festive period, your practice may only be operating on a skeleton crew.
For this, you will need to ensure your practice is operating as efficiently as possible and if it is feasible, get your patients to access alternative or online services, reducing the pressure on your practice. Offering online services such as ordering repeat prescriptions, online appointment booking and accessing GP records has been proven to save staff time and effort, freeing their time up for more important tasks. If just 30% of patients used full record access twice a year, your GP practice would save 10% of appointments and hundreds of calls.
Use your website and social media, as well as waiting rooms to remind patients what local services are available without referral. For example, IAPT can offer self-referral for counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for a wide range of mental health issues. This allows patients to speak with dedicated specialists whilst simultaneously relieving pressure off your practice.
Although some of these suggestions seem simple, they can have impressive effects on your GP Practice. We hope this helps and we offer you all our very best Season’s Greetings!