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The Relationship between the Practice Manager and the Primary Care Network Manager

Updated: May 9, 2023

At THC Primary Care, we create resources for primary care network leaders, and in this week's blog, we discuss the relationship between the PCN Manager and the Practice Manager.

I believe the relationship between the Practice Manager and PCN Manager is critical, and in this blog, I share both positive and negative experiences I have encountered, and some valuable lessons learnt along the way.

In this blog, we cover;

✅ The role of the PCN Manager

✅ Why PCN Clinical Directors shouldn't hire a network manager in isolation from the rest of the network

✅ The importance of being clear on the day-to-day responsibilities of the network management role

✅ The importance of the PCN Manager taking the time to appreciate the Practice Manager role

✅ The importance of inviting critique (it's easy to take when you proactively seek it)

✅ How to approach important conversations if the relationship needs to be enhanced

✅ Addressing salary issues

✅ Five top tips to enhance the PCN and Practice Manager relationship

Let’s dive in!

1. The Relationship between the Practice Manager and the Primary Care Network Manager

Check out my take in the video below:

2. A few points to emphasise

2.1 The role of the PCN Manager and Practice Manager

Whilst the role of the PCN Manager will vary from network to network, a PCN Manager usually has ownership of the full operational, day-to-day running of the PCN and will generally pick up all (or most of) the following;

✅ Financial management

✅ Human resources activities

✅ Business planning and reporting

✅ Contract management

✅ Communications and engagement across the network

✅ Facilitating the network to deliver some services at a network level

✅ Managing risk and issues pertaining to the network

✅ Chairing / supporting board meetings

✅ Acting as a first port of call for network-related issues

The Practice Manager is responsible for all aspects of leading and managing their designated practice (or practices);

✅ 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

The Practice Manager, in comparison to the Network Manager, has far more interaction with patients (in my experience).

The roles share a similar skill set, but the Network Manager leads and manages the activities of the PCN. The Practice Manager leads and manages their practices.

I believe there should be no hierarchy between the role. The ideal is a flat management structure, with PCN Manages working alongside Practice Managers.

2.2 Once your PCN Manager is in post

✅ Don’t leave them high and dry. Whilst many newly-recruited PCN Managers will be seasoned operational leads, they may not necessarily have experience of working in Primary Care. Clue them into the culture and landscape and give them access to any resources or training they may need.

✅ Spend time on induction and introducing your PCN Manager to both the people they will be supporting and the people who can support them to be successful.

✅ Ensure your PCN Manager is aware of what their remit is; where they fit, and what your expectations are of them.

✅ Always get your Practice Manager involved with all of the above.

2.3 Addressing the issues of salary

Taking into account everything I've just said about hierarchy and structure, some PCN Managers may be paid more than some Practice Manager's colleagues.

Variation in salaries will always exist. There will always be someone who earns more, and the only way to attract keen, experienced and dynamic leaders (who are willing to work in positions such as these ) is by offering a competitive remuneration.

The PCN Manager should never bear the brunt of anyone's frustrations when it comes to transparency of earnings because they are not at fault.

2.4 Top Tips for PCN Managers

🎯 Always be mindful and appreciative of each other at all times. There are multiple truths.

🎯 Establish a regular meeting forum for you and your Practice Managers. This creates the opportunity for support and feedback, and a greater understanding of what's involved in making change happen.

🎯 Make sure communication is targeted and effective. Don’t meet if you don’t need a meeting. Would a WhatsApp message or voice note work better than sending another email? Can we avoid a potential misunderstanding or misinterpretation by just picking up the phone and talking?

🎯 Be honest about acknowledging your own mistakes; apologise if you feel you should and always leave the door open for constructive criticism. As a management team, review what works well and consider where improvements are required - and how you can work in partnership to implement these.

🎯 Written communication is key too! Make sure discussions and actions are clearly documented, agreed and, most importantly, followed up.

3. My conclusion

❇️ Both the PCN Manager and the Practice Manager roles carry equal weight and are equally important.

❇️ There should be no system of hierarchy between the two.

❇️ There needs to be understanding and empathy on both sides in terms of acknowledging the challenges of each role.

❇️ Work together to establish effective processes and systems, particularly where communication is concerned.

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About The Author

I'm Tara; I am the founder of THC Primary Care, an award-winning healthcare consultancy specialising in Primary Care Network Management and the host of the Business of Healthcare Podcast, where we have now published over 240 episodes.

I have over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sectors, and I have supported over 80 PCNs by providing interim management, training and consultancy.

I have managed teams across multiple sites and countries; I have an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, I'm published in the London Journal of Primary Care, and I am the author of over 250 blogs.

I have 3 children. My eldest has Asthma, my middle child has a kidney condition called Nephrotic Syndrome, and my youngest daughter has Type 1 Diabetes, so outside of work, healthcare plays a huge role in my life.


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