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Creating the new culture for primary care

Leaders help to create the culture of an organisation – it’s the way things are done around here.  During 2020, cultures changed rapidly, forced upon us by the Coronavirus pandemic.  Leaders had minimal say – what needed to be done was done and now a legacy of doing things a different way will be left.  Leaders now have to work through and appraise the new culture, consider what works and they would like to retain, and what should change.  Things will never go back to how they were before Covid-19, patient expectations and clinicians ways of working have changed significantly.

Helen Northall

Some of the changes that will significantly shape the future culture for primary care include use of digital technology and collaboration across general practices and beyond.  These changes although they were on the horizon have been pushed forward in ways that we would never have thought possible at the beginning of 2020.  But what will the future culture look and feel like.  Getting the balance right is crucial as “the way things will be done around here” needs to inform the future strategy across primary care, in individual practices, across community services and beyond.  The leaders role is to help shape this future by considering the behaviour of their organisation, how they will work with others, what the language will be – working in partnership, collaboration, what will be shared, what will organisations do themselves.   What will be the mix the use of digital technologies be versus face to face?  This will need to feed into more significant strategies for primary care – workforce and estates to name but two areas. 

What will the future workforce look like, not just skill mix in individual practices, but what will be shared, what can be managed remotely, will there be acute teams – overseen by GPs, and continuity teams with practice staff linked to the more complex patients or those with ongoing needs? How will these teams work in practice, how will they behave and how will they communicate with each other?  How will patients and the local community be engaged in working with leaders to consider these new ways of working?  Engagement and co-design will help get the way things are done around here right for patients, but it’s important to start with the end in mind and consider the outcomes required at the very start of this process.  This will keep considerations on track with both staff, local communities and other stakeholders.  These plans will influence the estate needed for the future – and PCN estate strategies.

It’s worth taking the time to reflect as the first step to the future – working with your teams (even if virtually) considering the good and bad points in the culture – pre pandemic and now, what are the key points from each that you would want to retain?  Have a clear future vision of primary care services that are within your remit, and consider how you will work with those you can only influence.  Work with your teams, and communities to share a picture, that you can clearly describe, of the culture you wish to work in and use it as a call to action.  As a leader – direct your activities towards the shared goals and vision, working with your teams, communities and those in your sphere of influence to get the way things are done around here right for the future.

This will be a challenge, but getting it right now for your organisation, working with others over time to get it right for the wider area and embedding a culture that staff want to be a part of in the future will be the cornerstone to your future success. For details of how PCC can support you to succeed contact

Reflect on what can stay and what (still) needs to change

Err on the side of over-communicating

Consider the desired mood and ‘feel’ of the team, service or organisation and design with that in mind

Ask and listen – seek whole team involvement and adopt a co-design approach