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Top Tips To Improve Your Primary Care Network PLT (Protected Learning Time) sessions

Many of you may think THC is solely operated by Tara Humphrey, but she does have a team she is slowly trying to coax into the limelight.

So, moving forwards, you will not only get Tara’s insight through the blog, team THC will also share their experiences and advice.


In this blog written by Ellen Hinkley, Ellen shares some of the challenges and practical advice to enhance your Primary Care Network Protected Learning Time (PLT) sessions.


Please note, in parts of the country these sessions may also be known as:


· Protected Learning Events

· Educational sessions

· Target

· Time to Learn


Let's jump in!




So, what is a PLT?


These abbreviations and titles are names given to a portion of time every month that Primary Care puts aside for education and development of staff. Historically, they were organised by the local CCGs. They may have been hosted in local venues with a nice hot lunch for the practice teams whilst the CCG arranged the backfill and cover of staff through out of hours providers. Anyway, like so many other things in life, covid changed that.


Shortly after PCNs came along, they were included in the organisation of the sessions, giving networks the freedom to choose what they wanted to learn about, and now most areas alternate the set up between the training hub and the practice and / or PCN. Some of these learning events are hosted via Teams and offer an opportunity for groups of neighbouring networks to come together and share best practice on a variety of interesting topics. (If there are any managers out there that do things differently then please let us know! We would love to hear from you!)


It’s 1pm and everyone heads into the largely crowded staff room to get first pick of the free sandwiches and cakes. Belly suitably full, you sit down for the much-anticipated protected learning time event, only to find you're 10 minutes in and the old eyes are rolling in the back of your head, and this could quite possibly be the most boring and pointless talk you’ve ever listened to.


Don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there. PLTs are supposed to be educational, useful, informative and enjoyable. Almost every month an afternoon is set aside for Primary Care colleagues to come together to learn. It’s important that employees of the practices as well as the network have well thought out planned sessions, specific to their skill mix. So why doesn’t this happen? What are the challenges we as PCN managers face when trying to assist and facilitate PLTs?


To name a few;


· Lack of engagement from practices and staff

· Practices disagreeing on the topics they want covered as a PCN

· Regular attendance and communication

· Difficulty organising and confirming details

· Less direct contact with staff groups so it’s hard to gauge real interest



So then, despite the challenges faced, amongst many others for managers who now add “extension of the training hub” to the ever-growing job description, how can a new PCN manager overcome these obstacles and make PLTs or TTL Sessions educational, motivational and most of all meaningful?


We would suggest starting with the basics when it comes to planning your PCN PLTs as a network.

Start by giving yourself and your management team a good healthy length of time to discuss and prepare ideas for the coming year. This may seem extreme! But, in our experience, the back and forth of emails and arrangements can take weeks, sometimes months, and you don’t want to leave things till the month before only to find out the facilitator is already booked up because your next-door neighbour PCN got in there first! We would say plan and select ideas as early as 12 months before and start to organise and arrange the dates 6-12 months in advance. Don’t forget to send updated comms out or update your newsletters and online sharing platforms as soon as possible, with reminders the month before for full attendance!


Another suggestion would be to think about what mandatory training needs to be had each year. (For LMN, a PCN in Kent, they join forces and have a PCN based BLS update every June.) After the basic widespread topics have been agreed, it’s time to think about what training and education will benefit each staff group. So go to your staff and ask them. This way you will start to build a wealth of ideas that will personally interest your employees and help increase your engagement.


We can hear some of you thinking, “but my network will never agree!” Here’s a top tip from THC;


create a pool of ideas that you can ask everyone to vote on. Give them a deadline if they want to have a say and then sit out with determination to pick your items for the following year! You can then make decisions based on the majority votes and the feedback received when arranging your future PLTs. This gives people ample time to plan ahead, people feel more prepared and included and we guarantee it will help improve attendance rates!


So in summary then, when looking at the challenges of arranging PLTs and making them inclusive to all staff, remember:


· look at the basic needs first and what training you can offer at scale to include everyone

· Talk to your managers and practice staff and ask them what they would be interested in learning about

· And finally, plan and research ideas to provide a suitable amount of options to present and a deadline for the decisions to be agreed.


Here’s a few examples or ideas to get you started!...


  • Ardens/ EMIS/ systm 1 training specific to each workforce group

  • Book a consultant to give a specialist education session on Cardiovascular/ Respiratory/ Oncology

  • Book a facilitator to help plan and structure a specific PCN subject e.g., Health Inequalities project/ Understanding the ARRS roles

  • Care Navigation training

  • Workforce planning and estates plans for the PCN for the next year


We hope this blog gives you some food for thought when thinking about next year’s PLTs.


Oh and that’s a thought! Don’t forget the cakes!



 

Going live on 24th April we have our 4th cohort of training to support those of you who are involved in PCN Management. You may be a Manager, Administrator or Coordinator.


Whilst we share a lot of information in our blogs, there is so much more, and for those of you who are looking to invest in your professional development and the performance of your network, our programme is full of tools and templates and master classes.


On top of this, you will receive a core strengths assessment to improve your communication and leadership skills.


We have drop-in sessions and a WhatsApp group too.


In this programme, we focus on the skills to lead and manage a network so regardless of changes in the DES and last-minute contractual obligations, you will have learnt the skills to keep a cool head and lead and manage with confidence.


Click here to register your place today.


Lastly, we lead and manage PCNs too. We are in the thick of it and experience the good and those days when you think 😫!



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