The Covid-19 pandemic is not yet a distant memory. You may be working in an industry which returned to the workplace a long time ago – but for everyone in the Primary healthcare sector (including GP surgeries) it is still a very current issue.

With this increased pressure comes increased stress for doctors and nurses. Even though they are rightly being heralded as the modern-day superheroes, the need for effective and carefully planned HR policies and procedures has never been greater than in the healthcare sector right now.

There are three key challenges which practice managers need to cope with. I have given a quick summary of these below – and what surgeries can do to support their doctors and nurses.

HR for primary care workers

Where is the pay rise?

There was significant controversy in 2021 when it was announced that many NHS doctors and nurses would not receive pay rises or would only receive a 1% increase. This was hugely demotivating for many in the sector.

Practice owners/managers struggling for funds need to find new ways to keep their doctors and nurses engaged.

However, while the ongoing mission to give pay rises to all doctors and nurses is a challenging one, this does not mean the topic should be ignored. Practice owners/managers should keep doctors and nurses informed with updates regarding where funding may be coming from, and how that can be converted into pay rises.

This ongoing communication will reassure your doctors and nurses that their pay rises have not been forgotten.

Meanwhile, your practice can attempt other means of incentivising doctors and nurses, such as:

  • Flexible working arrangements
  • A promotion
  • Extra holiday days
  • Celebrate accomplishments
  • Provide emotional support and recognition for their efforts

Different employees are motivated by a variety of things – and it is no different in medical practices. As the owner of a surgery, you may be able to negate the absence of a pay rise by offering an alternative incentive to your doctors/nurses, which they value just as much.

And while these motivating measures are being implemented, keep your doctors and nurses regularly informed about the steps you are taking to secure them a pay rise.

HR for healthcare workers

Managing with absent doctors or nurses

Hospitals and GP surgeries have unfortunately become a hotspot for Covid-19 cases in the past two years. Lots of patients arrive at these places to fight off a Covid-related illness – and this makes doctors and nurses extremely vulnerable to illness. As a result, staff shortages in GP surgeries are common.

As a practice owner/manager, you need to gather clear and concise information about your doctor/nurse’s absence. This is not to interrogate them, but ensure your practice is able to keep operating successfully while they are away. Information worth gathering includes:

  • The reason for absence
  • How long they are likely to be away
  • Any work that needs to be picked up by someone else
  • Does the person need workplace adjustments upon return (e.g. for physical injury)

This information is critical for managing with absent doctors or nurses – particularly if someone else needs to pick up their workload.

You should then communicate quickly and clearly with your other doctors/nurses about the work that needs to be picked up from the absent employee. If possible, spread this workload between several people, so one individual isn’t required to carry the entire burden, and so each doctor/nurse can lean on each other. This approach also leaves you less vulnerable if one more doctor or nurse goes off sick.

Finally, try to stay in regular communication with the doctor or nurse who is absent. By getting regular updates on their condition and when they will be back, you can inform your working doctors/nurses on how long they will need to cover for. Having a clear ‘finishing line’ in site will help everyone to manage with the absence.

HR for medical staff

Handling stress in your surgery

As a practice owner/manager, you will have undoubtedly noticed your doctors and nurses experiencing increased stress in recent times. You (and they) aren’t alone! There are lots of unwanted headaches to deal with right now, including:

  • Increased workload
  • Colleagues off sick
  • Aggravated patients
  • Shifting job responsibilities

Fortunately, there are small steps you and your workforce can take to handle stress in the workplace. You may wish to sit your entire team down and communicate these recommendations to them. This setting may be a good time to address the ‘elephant in the room’ (everyone’s high stress) so doctors/nurses do not take out their frustration on each other.

A few coping strategies to help your doctors and nurses handle stress include:

  • Taking breaks between shifts
  • Eat healthily and exercise
  • Trust in your abilities
  • Stay in contact with family and friends
  • Discuss any concerns with your manager and your other colleagues, if appropriate

It is important to develop a culture of ‘we’re all in this together’. If your doctors and nurses feel shut out and isolated, their stress will increase, and they may be more prone to mistakes, or to unhappiness in their job.

Instead, try to create an atmosphere where your doctors and nurses support each other (through encouraging words, and by helping out with workload) as this will help everyone to manage their stress better.

healthcare workers need HR

Support your key workers through effective HR policies

In such difficult times, all practice owners have a responsibility to ensure their doctors and nurses feel supported. Well-thought-out HR policies can go a long way to achieving this.

A practice owner we recently worked with said the following about our HR support:

“Having moved to HR Initiatives in 2021 after recommendation I have not looked back. I can certainly say I feel very reassured knowing I have the HR support from the team at HR Initiatives.

During the time we have been with HR Initiatives our HR issues have been resolved with the support of both Penny and Emma. Guidance has always been clear and I can honestly say having the team support our GP Practice is a weight off my mind.

There would be no hesitation in recommending the services that are provided by HR Initiatives.”

If you want to support your key workers with a strong HR plan, contact HR Initiatives today on 01438 742 056 or email