6 key points to improve retention of Primary Care staff


On Thursday 17th March, we were joined by an expert panel to discuss how to retain and support your Primary Care workforce.

The panel was comprised of a selection of experts from across the healthcare landscape: 

  • Dr Natasha Behl, Clinical Lead and First5 GP, Birmingham and Solihull CCG 
  • Simon Shepard, Co-founder, Living Life Better 
  • Ravy Gabrria-Nivas, Head of Transformation, Primary Care, Birmingham and Solihull CCG
  • Dr Emma Hamilton, GP and Training Programme Director, Thistlemoor Medical Centre

During the session, we discussed the topic of burnout, and explored how encouraging conversation and not implementing a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to supporting employees makes a big difference. Our panel then shared actionable ways to improve staff wellbeing with real-life examples.

Here are six key takeaways from the session.

1. The impact Covid-19 had on the workforce is real

As we slowly see the other side of Covid-19, the impact it's had on our Primary Care workforce is clear. Burnout is a critical issue, and many are struggling to maintain a good work-life balance. 

Healthcare organisations are faced with an immeasurable and growing workload, while being understaffed, with GPs working 11 hour days on average.

As a result, the health and social care sectors have been facing recruitment and retention difficulties:

  • In 2020, 90% of trusts told NHS Providers they had concerns about staff wellbeing, according to a survey conducted by the Health and Social Care Committee
  • Since 2015, England has lost the equivalent of over 1,700 full-time qualified GPs
  • 32% of GPs are at a high risk of workload due to unsustainable workload, compared to 18% of other specialities (GMC report)
  • 35% of GPs are likely to reduce their contracted hours this year

2. There is a real work-life balance disruption, which inevitably leads to burnout

Simon Shepard let the numbers speak for themselves: last year, 27,000 people left the NHS. He explained that from his experience, people often aren't aware of how much burnout is affecting them until it’s too late.

Dr Natasha Behl identified similar issues within Birmingham and Solihull CCG, and shared how the last two years really challenged them. As a result, they re-evaluated the ways they were supporting staff with initiatives to address burnout, and offered more comprehensive training opportunities. She shared that 20% of their GPs are over the age of 55, which presents a workforce challenge and increases the urgency of implementing a support system for younger staff. 

Dr Emma Hammilton reinforced their words, explaining how important it is to think of the consequences of saying “yes” too much. 

The increase in demand has been unprecedented over the past 2 years and there hasn't been a corresponding increase in supply, making it very difficult for clinicians to maintain a good work-life balance.


3. You can adopt good practices to retain and support your primary care workforce

The speakers shared four key pieces of advice for any organisation looking to support staff with burnout:

  • Encourage the conversation - Everyone is different and operates at a different pace, which means we must adapt to each individual and avoid implementing a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to tackling burnout.
  • Provide training sessions - Empower your workforce and reinforce self-development through learning and development opportunities.
  • Strengthen community spirit - Encourage the creation of forums and community groups where colleagues can support one another.
  • Make sure you look long term as an organisation - Take time to build your strategy and seek input rather than focusing on short-term fixes.

“There is a value and power in speaking to others, we’re all going through the same challenges.”
Dr Natasha Behl

4. Prioritising workforce health can increase GP numbers by 19.5% 

Dr Natasha Behl and Ravy Gabrria-Nivas shared how supporting their workforce's health and wellbeing was a top priority. They implemented various programmes and initiatives, which in turn led them to be the only system in the UK that has increased their GP numbers by 19.5%.

Birmingham and Solihull CCG reviewed a clinician’s career at each stage, and launched a new career development scheme that supports their GPs, practice managers, pharmacists and nurses throughout every stage of their career.  

The scheme provides their workforce with access to: 

  • Dedicated mentors 
  • Peer-to-peer support meetings, hosted on a monthly basis 
  • Regular training sessions, hosted by senior GPs 

“We want to empower clinicians, give them some space and let them take back control.”
Ravy Gabrria-Nivas

5. Retaining trainers is a very important piece of the puzzle 

Dr Emma Hamilton explained how the Thistlemoor Medical Centre has also taken steps to tackle burnout and promote professional development and wellbeing. 

Within their training programme, the medical centre provided two types of sessions to support their workforce: 

  • How to manage anxiety and develop resilience with decision making in Primary care - a session set up to support people moving to telephone consulting.
  • How to be a joyful doctor - a session created to help increase workforce positivity.

One of the main challenges the organisation faces is increasing the trainers and the number of training practices. To improve retention and encourage people to stay in training, Dr Emma Hamilton shared how they developed an accelerated programme. 

The point of the programme is to encourage peer-to-peer support, in order to evolve as a group. Thistlemoor Medical Centre has therefore put in place face-to-face sessions to reinforce local training in a more interactive and dynamic way.

At the moment, Thistlemoor Medical Centre is looking to hire an extra 25 trainers, which is a big step forward.

“We’ve been working really hard to look at ways to make people happier in the role as a trainer or trainee.”
Dr Emma Hamilton 

6. The pandemic has renewed the focus on what matters to us most 

One of the points the speakers all agreed on was that the pandemic did encourage reflection and a renewed focus on what matters to us most. Primary Care workers have had to adapt and try to maintain a positive attitude in order to keep going.

Investing in programmes that support your workforce is critical, and will equip your staff to be more resilient and feel more fulfilled.

“It needs to become an “us” conversation and not a “me” conversation.”
Simon Shepard

Watch the webinar on-demand

To make the contents of the webinar accessible to those who weren’t able to attend on the day, we have made the full session available to watch on-demand. You can access the recording here.

If you have any questions about the webinar, or how Lantum can help you improve retention of your workforce, please get in touch.



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About Lantum

Lantum is a workforce platform that uses technology to simplify all aspects of healthcare staffing.

Our easy-to-use tools empower healthcare organisations to fill their shifts and professionals to fill their diaries, without the need for agencies. And they dramatically reduce time spent on rostering admin, compliance, and invoice chasing.


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