Personal Development Plans (PDP) as a concept in health care have been in existence for a number of years. We have published in the courses brochure a simple PDP check list every year. The plan allows one to identify the learning goals one wishes to achieve each year. The PDP may be limited to professional learning activities, it can include personal goals as well. I set myself targets each year in my PDP such as the commitment to continue with saxophone lessons each week.

Medical practices in the NHS have been required in recent years to produce a Practice Development Plan in addition to the individual personal development plans. It is likely with the move to PCT contracting of NHS dental services we may be required to submit an annual Practice Plan. The purpose of this article is to give an overview of Practice Development Plans and how they link to PDPs.

Business plans and practice plans are really one and the same. The key aspect of the plan is to define what the business/practice will look like in general detail in a few years time (3–5 years) and then developing a plan for what needs to be achieved each year to achieve the goal set in the plan.

What is a Practice Development Plan?

It is similar to a PDP except it details the main targets for the practice for the next year, it is very similar to a business plan. Ideally it should be linked to a longer term vision for how the practice wishes to develop, if it is to be truly useful. It can be as simple or as detailed as befits the needs of the practice.

If you have not had a structured plan in the past then it may be best to start with a simple plan for year 1 and then refine it for subsequent years.

What might be in this year’s plan? Like a business plan it should contain goals for all areas of the practice’s operation. The following areas need to be considered for inclusion in the plan.
Customers – Do we know what they want from us? Are we meeting their needs and wishes? What market research have we done? Have they been surveyed? What are we going to do differently next year to meet their needs and wishes.
Facilities – building, surgeries, equipment – what developments or upgrades are needed?
Human Resources – do we have the right staff with the skills needed for the new challenges? What training is required? Who needs training this year?
Quality Assurance – How do we quality assure all practice activities? How do we meet Clinical Governance requirements? What needs to be done?
Legislation & regulations – Do we comply with all current legislation? What new ones will need to be addressed next year? How do we show we comply, if asked?
Financial – Are the finances in order to support a development plan? How will the income be affected by the new contract. What do we need to do to make the future more secure?

It may well be that after reviewing each of these areas you may decide only a couple of areas need addressing. It may just be that the practice plan for the year will focus on developing its clinical governance systems and a risk management review. It may be that the plan will encompass items the PCT wishes identified during contract reviews.

As with all successful plans they should be broken down into objectives. Using the SMART acronym helps make them attainable.

A SMART goal should be:

Specific – clearly identify what is to be done. E.g. Gain BDA Good Practice Award or Investors in People.
Measurable – the outcome of the activity must have a measurable end point. E.g. gain the award of IIP.
Achievable – with resources available.
Realistic – is the time and resource available to achieve it?
Timed – has a date set for its attainment – e.g. by the end of the year, within a month.

Once one has the main goals for the year they can then be broken down into monthly targets, this makes it easier to do and monitor, it may also allow one to delegate specific points to members of the practice to tackle, so sharing the load.

How does the practice plan relate to personal plans? If the practice is to develop it may need to develop the skills of the people working in it towards meeting specific goals – e.g. the need to have enhanced endodontic skills. So one needs to agree which dentist may attend training for endodontics and this then become part of their PDP. It may also be that staff need extra training to assist this dentist. Parts of the PDP should involve attaining goals for the practice as well as personal goals.

What about practice staff and the Practice Development Plan? If developments in the practice involve staff in doing things differently they will need some training or coaching and so this should be included in the plan. If you already carry out annual appraisals for your staff then you might like to consider having the staff produce their own Personal Development Plan and review it as part of the appraisal process. Staff PDPs can focus on needs for the practice and learning needs for the individual. To many the thought of having formal written plans may seem laborious with little benefit. If the plan is kept simple in the first year and all the objectives are SMART, then it is likely to succeed and in future years it will become easier to operate, more focused, better results will be attained and the practice is likely to be even more successful. Having annual plans is the tool that all successful organisations use to continue to develop and be more successful. PCTs will in due course be asking to see Practice Development Plans, so it might make life simpler to start to develop a plan now at your own pace, rather than meet one of their deadlines.

by Alasdair Miller

Further Reading:
BDA Master Class Volume 3.
British Dental Associations – 193
Personal Development Planning – Rogani & Franklin – Ratcliffe MedicalPress, ISBN 1-85775-917-6