The NHS environment is ever-changing. Resources are spread thinly and are required to be more flexible. Whilst this poses challenges, it can also present opportunities for those looking to further their careers.

For practices, it can create uncertainty but having a succession plan in place will bring peace of mind when faced with unplanned leave of absence, retirement or staff simply moving on. It will also help create a structure for promotion or development within the team.

Strategies you agree should be flexible, tailored to your own practice’s requirements, and ensure you are prepared for most eventualities.

Ten suggestions for success

It is essential to understand as much as possible about the clinical requirements and business aspects of general practice, how that is likely to change, how such change might affect staff numbers and the skills the team need to possess.

Involve your staff in succession planning. This will allow the entire team to better understand the competences and skill-sets required for each role. It may permit people to see opportunities for their own career development creating a natural succession plan for any given job. It also means everyone in the practice is aware of the plan and what contingencies are in

Earmark roles with transferable skill-sets to help with cover allocation during short-term leaves of absence.

Create deputy roles and encourage line managers to delegate tasks and challenge those in As well as freeing up a little time for more senior staff, you will also be ensuring they are up to the job should a gap become available.

Consider shadowing as a simple but effective way for current employees to ‘learn the ropes’ from a more senior colleague. This give them insight and confidence to step up to the task should they be needed.

Broadening individuals’ tasks and responsibilities can provide more flexibility within the practice and result in a more engaged

All employees should be given the opportunity to indicate interest in roles. This will help reduce potential discrimination claims where staff are receiving different opportunities in like-for-like roles.

Why not look outside? Is there another local practice who would be willing to have a reciprocal agreement in place? This not only provides cover during emergency situations but could also bring fresh views from a new

It is important to recognise that not all staff will want to be considered for any career opportunities made

Development opportunities via internal and external sources will not only improve capabilities within the team, they will keep staff motivated and more likely to remain with the practice.

“Effective workforce planning will ensure that we have a workforce of the right size with the right skills and diversity organised in the right way, delivering the services needed to provide the best patient care.” (Skills for Health, 2014).

The PMA Practice Manager Assistant – ILM Level 3 Diploma in Leadership & Management provides an ideal development opportunity for supporting succession planning in primary care. It is suitable for new or existing employees who are aiming to develop the skills necessary to lead or manage teams.

If you would like more information, please contact the PMA Team at