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Practice managers' perceptions and experiences of protected learning time: a focus group study

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Background Protected learning time (PLT) has become an established method of learning for many primary care teams in the UK. Considerable resources are used to provide protected time for practice teams to enable them to learn. Members of the primary care team appear to value PLT differently, and the reasons for this are unclear. The aim of this research was to explore the perceptions of practice managers towards PLT.

Method A qualitative community based study using three focus groups of practice managers from semi-urban and rural general medical practices within three local healthcare co-operatives (LHCCs) in Ayrshire, Scotland was undertaken.

Results Managers perceived that PLT was of benefit to the team, and gave examples of how the team had learned from each other and from neighbouring teams. This learning was welcomed by managers. An emerging theme was the level of involvement of the pharmaceutical industry in the planning and provision of team-based learning. There was also some confusion over the responsibility for providing learning for attached staff such as health visitors and district nurses. Managers wanted clearer guidance on how to develop educational events for their teams. They wanted to improve communication with the LHCC on evaluation feedback and developing a resource database. Managers also felt that they were working during the PLT sessions, rather than learning, and that they should have additional training to compensate.

Managers need more support with the planning and preparation of PLT sessions, which they undertake on behalf of the primary healthcare team. Improved communication with the managers of attached staff would encourage full attendance at meetings. Practice managers and LHCC managers need to build a stronger network to develop PLT further. Improved funding by primary care organisations would reduce the involvement of the pharmaceutical industry.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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