Human resource management in general practice: Survey of current practice

John Newton*, Jo Hunt, John Stirling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background. The organization and management of general practice is changing as a result of government policies designed to expand primary health care services. One aspect of practice management which has been under-researched concerns staffing: the recruitment, retention, management and motivation of practice managers. Aim. A study set out to find out who is routinely involved in making decisions about staffing matters in general practice, to establish the extent to which the human resource management function is formalized and specialized, and to describe the characteristics of the practice managers. Method. A postal questionnaire was sent to a stratified random sample of 750 general practices in England and Wales in February 1994 enquiring about the practice for example, the fundholding status and number of general practitioner partners), how the practice dealt with a range of staffing matters and about the practice manager (for example, employment background and training in human resource management). Practices were classed as small (single-handed and two or three general practitioner partners), medium (four or five partners) or large (six or more partners). Results. Replies were received from 477 practices (64%). Practice managers had limited authority to make decisions alone in the majority of practices although there was a greater likelihood of them taking independent action as the size of practice increased. Formality in handling staffing matters (as measured by the existence and use of written policies and procedures) also increased with practice size. Larger practices were more likely than smaller practices to have additional tiers in their management structure through the creation of posts with the titles assistant practice manager, fund manager and senior receptionist. Most practice managers had been recruited from within general practice but larger practices were more likely than smaller practices to recruit from outwith general practice. Three quarters of practice managers reported having received some type of formal training in staff management. Conclusion. This study shows that practice size is a major factor associated with differences in the organization and management of staffing. Any initiatives which increase the scale of primary care functions and services would have to address the issues of communication and coordination that might be associated with such a change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-85
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number403
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Personnel management
  • Practice management
  • Practice managers
  • Practice staff


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