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Making Extra Cash in the GP Practice – Part 1

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Increasing numbers of GP practices are turning to innovative strategies to make extra cash in order to ensure their practice survives in the NHS financial meltdown. There are plenty of ways to do so, but there is also an ethical argument that many have to work through before deciding to put money making strategies in place.

In this first article of two discussing the making extra cash in the GP Practice, we’ll examine the ethical argument surrounding boosting cash flow. In the second part, we’ll look at a few strategies that can be employed to increase your practice’s income.

Why the need to make extra cash in the GP practice?

Primary care provision is becoming increasingly squeezed from all directions, including:

- More patients

- Fewer new doctors

- Higher premises costs; and

- A funding crunch

These factors are conspiring to reduce the financial viability of the GP practice as we know it. There are practices closing because they simply can’t make the black column add up to more than the red column.

Should GPs and the GP practice be money-making businesses?

Here in the UK, we’re blessed with a ‘free NHS’. At least that’s what most people think, forgetting that a portion of everyone’s tax – paid on income, sales of assets, and VAT on goods and services – is used to fund the service.

GP practices have a unique position in the communities they serve. They are the first point of contact between a patient and required treatment, and many patients and their families have been with the same GP practice so long that they almost see them as a part of their family. The doctor’s knowledge of their patients is intimate and informs all subsequent care and treatment provided.

However, the uniqueness of a GP practice is also founded on how it works: while it is (predominantly) funded by the NHS and government, these payments are made in the same way that a client would pay a contractor. Every GP practice is a business in its own right. If a GP practice doesn’t make money, just like any other business it will be forced to close.

If GP practices were consumed by the NHS and fully-funded, then the cost to the taxpayer would undoubtedly rise. The flexibility of the GP practice infrastructure, with practices operating as businesses with the potential to expand their operations and make more money, keeps funding costs down – and that’s good news for the taxpayer.

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How can the GP practice make more cash?

There is a misconception that primary care is a free service. This is because it is free at the point-of-delivery. However, there are precedents for charging that are already accepted within the NHS. Prescriptions, for example, are directly charged. This cost, while not liked, is not disputed: it is an accepted practice within the NHS, and one that has been embedded as ‘a way that things are done’.

The argument that point-of-delivery should remain free can’t be disputed under the current set-up: the GP Practice receives a payment per patient for the delivery of NHS services. However, it is clear that patients are willing to pay for services they consider to be ‘non-core’.

If the GP practice is to make more cash from non-core services, the first thing it must do is to educate patients as to what are classed as non-core services. Once this has been accomplished, charging becomes accepted.

Three steps to making charges acceptable in the GP practice

Education of patients (and other customers) is key to developing revenue generating strategies. You’ll need to increase awareness that:

- The NHS is not a free service

- Core services are funded by the NHS, while non-core services are not

- Patients don’t have to pay directly for core-services, but non-core services are chargeable

Take this approach and the majority of patients willingly accept charges for non-core services, in the same way that they readily accept the need to pay for prescriptions.

In our next article, we’ll look at ways to make extra cash in the GP practice and strategies to make those charges acceptable. 

If you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me - alex.henman@esuppliesmedical.co.uk - 01865 261451

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