Clinical managers in the primary care sector: Do the benefits stack up?

Chris O'Riordan, Aoife McDermott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature and value of the clinical management role undertaken by primary care doctors in Ireland. To date, a majority of research has focused on clinical management roles in the acute sector. Design/methodology/approach: The paper presents a sub-set of data from a mixed methods study. In total, 14 semi-structured interviews are drawn upon to identify the nature and value of the clinical management role in primary care. Findings: Comparison with acute sector research identifies considerable differences in the nature of the clinical management role across sectors - and in the associated value proposition. Structural and role-related contingencies affecting the potential value of clinical management roles in Irish primary care are discussed. Structural influences include the private ownership structure, low complexity and limited requirement for cross-professional coordination. Role-related influences include the primacy of the clinical identity, time constraints and lack of managerial training. Research limitations/implications: The findings provide a limited basis for generalisation, premised on 14 interviews in one national context. However, given the international shift towards the provision of health services in primary care, they provide a research agenda for an important healthcare context. Practical implications: The findings draw attention to the need for policy consideration of the value of the clinical manager role in primary care; how policy can support effective primary care management; and the need for specialised management training, which takes account of the small-firm context. Originality/value: The paper identifies that primary-care clinical-management roles focus on operational management and oversight and discusses the structural and role-related factors which affect their efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-640
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Health, Organisation and Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • Clinical managers
  • Health services
  • Ireland
  • Primary care
  • Role
  • Value


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