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Effective succession planning strategies to combat staffing shortages in GP practices

GP practices - like many other businesses and healthcare providers – are experiencing high staffing shortages. With locum cover charged at a premium, and an uncertainty surrounding recruitment from abroad following the Brexit vote, ensuring roles are attractive to older partners and workers is an important method of retaining key staff and, in turn, managing the workforce.

Drivers

Due to healthcare and lifestyle choices improving, life expectancies are increasing for both men and women. This, together with more young adults living with their parents than at any other time in the past 20 years as record numbers struggle to fly the nest (due to increased student debt and rising property prices), means that more and more people are likely to need to work longer to fund their later years. The proportion of older workers is also only set to grow as this trend continues.

Advantages to your practice to supporting an ageing working population

Given the rise in the ageing working population, it makes sense for businesses to utilise this key group, not least because retaining older workers can have significant advantages for many organisations, including retaining skills and experience which might otherwise be lost, and reducing expensive recruitment and locum costs.

It also gives GP practices an opportunity to retain  a more balanced workforce that reflects their patient demographic.

Strategies to ensure effective retention plans are in place

Practices therefore need to take active steps to ensure there are effective succession plans in place, and that they retain talent. They also need to consider how working arrangements can be adjusted with a view to ensuring they get the very best from their employees, at all stages of their careers. This includes arrangements such as flexible/part-time working and/or family friendly policies and practices.

GP practices, like all businesses, have an obligation to comply with age discrimination provisions, particularly in light of the removal of the default retirement age (‘DRA’) back in 2011. Care needs to be taken when undertaking formal processes like performance and absence management, to ensure they are fair and reasonable, and that sweeping, stereotypical and discriminatory assumptions are not reached eg. “older workers will be off sick more”. In the case of performance issues, employers need to consider supportive measures, like training and mentoring, to help individuals achieve required standards and, in absence cases, the needs of the employee have to be balanced against those of the employer.

Mental health and wellbeing strategies are also an important focus for any employer, but particularly GP practices, as healthcare providers. As well as being something that an employer needs to consider and implement in order to comply with its general duty of care towards an employee – in addition to disability legislation - wellbeing strategies can help increase productivity, and reduce absence rates across a workforce.

Meanwhile, just as workforces are ageing, so leadership teams will be too. GP practices need to act well in advance to think through how they will handle things when senior staff and partners retire – effective succession planning can take some years, and it is rarely too early to plan for it.

For further information surrounding recruitment and retention initiatives, succession planning, discrimination legislation and employer obligations, feel free to speak to Amy Millson on 0113 323 1064 or Vicky Watson on 020 8780 4775.

About Capsticks

Capsticks provides a full range of legal services for GP practices across the country and was delighted to be awarded Legal Team of the Year at the General Practice Awards in both 2015 and 2016.

Find out more about our GP services on our website.

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