Job crafting and flexible working in general practice

Bevan S, Bajorek Z, Edwards M, Plowden Roberts C |   | Institute for Employment Studies  | Oct 2022

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Although there is evidence of new and innovative approaches to flexible job design and flexible working patterns in the NHS as whole (a promise contained in the NHS people plan), there are few examples of how this can be applied within general practice. 

From the evidence of diversity of working arrangements in general practice that currently exist, some aspects of job design and flexible working arrangements have been harder to embed, one reason being the difficulty of finding the right balance between patient, staff, and wider practice needs. Previous research has suggested reconfiguring roles, whether through introducing workplace and role flexibility and job crafting in ways that fosters job satisfaction and reduce potential burnout in employees.

With evidence accumulating reporting the high levels of stress, work intensity and burnout among GPs (exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic), and concerns about both recruiting and retaining GPs, now may be the time to understand if improved work flexibility, and the ability for GPs to craft their roles can protect the mental health of GPs, whilst maintaining high patient safety and service quality standards. 

This study has explored how six GP practices across the UK have approached the challenges of designing and implementing flexible work designs and job crafting to meet the increase in patient demands and ensuring that individual staff needs, and the wider practice can be balanced. The Practices varied by size, location, and the communities they served and had also adopted different approaches to job designs and flexible working in the previous two to three years.

Case study interviews with practice managers, GP themselves, practice nurses and other clinical support staff were conducted in each of the practices. The focus of the interviews was two-fold: the nature of the working arrangements in use, and the processes by which they were implemented and evaluated.  Implications for staff wellbeing, patient care, career experiences and retention were also identified.

The views expressed in the report are those of IES and the research participants, and not that of NHSE.