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Making Extra Cash in the GP Practice – Part 2

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In our last article we discussed the ethical argument with which so many practices battle when contemplating ways to make extra cash. Without an increase in revenues, it seems likely that more GP practices will be forced to close – and that will be bad for the patients on their books and the communities they serve.

Having established the need to charge and that it is ethical to do so on non-core services, in this article we’ll look at a few ways to make extra cash in the GP practice.

What are non-core services?

Non-core and non-NHS work is generally not obligatory, but represents a potentially lucrative revenue stream for the GP practice. Your practice could, for example, offer the following services on a commercial basis:

-Accident and sickness forms for insurance purposes

-Patient certificates for gyms and sports clubs when they assess their member’s fitness

-Pre-employment medical certificates

-Health reports required by insurance companies

-DWP required tests and certificates for benefits claims

-Medical reports for local authorities (e.g. when assessing people that want to foster or adopt)

What can our GP practice charge for non-core services?

The answer to this question is “whatever you want.” However, there are two limiters to the amount that can be charged.

The first of these is the BMA guidance on fees. Now, this doesn’t limit the amount you can charge but it does provide a ball-park number on the cost of non-NHS reports.

Secondly, if your charging structure is non-competitive or seen to be over-expensive, you will be unlikely to get the extra business you are hoping for. In addition, you might do damage to the reputation of the practice.

A good tip here is to scope out the market, speaking to target customers before making a formal offer of service provision.

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Our patients think that charging for signatures is extortionate. What can we do?

As a revenue generator, charging for signing certificates or reports has potential. However, patients commonly complain at being charged for a signature. To overcome this, explain that it is not the signature that is being charged for, it is the time it takes to confirm that the details being signed off are correct. It is a condition of remaining on the Medical Register that checks have to be made before any signature is provided – this takes a GP away from doing their other usual work of seeing and treating patients, and therefore has to be compensated.

Tips to expand making extra cash in the GP practice

1.Provide a menu of services

Provide a menu of non-core services, with rates for their provision, in a prominent place in the surgery, and on the practice website. Train doctors and clinical staff to offer these services if and when appropriate to do so.

2.Actively seek partnerships in the local community

Consider local companies that might benefit from your non-core services – solicitors, gyms, and sports clubs, for example.

3.Assess the market

Find out what companies are currently being charged for the services you are able to offer, and pitch your price accordingly. This doesn’t mean you have to undercut, but you must be seen to provide value for money.

4.Avoid bad debts

Charge before undertaking a medical exam or providing other non-core service.

5.Continually look for new opportunities

This includes exploring new companies and organisations and also actively seeking to expand the services you offer. Ensure that your practice has a good mix of skills, and that these skills are apportioned appropriately.

6.Review your fee structure at regular intervals

Other services the GP practice can offer

-GPs can offer specialisations to other providers, such as minor operations; coil and implant fitting; health checks; nursing time.

-You might also consider offering unused rooms to other local service providers, such as physios; chiropodists; and podistrists.

-Look for a research forum in your local area, and find out what research programmes you might be able to participate in – some can be very lucrative.

Make use of your waiting room

While it might not be ethical or appropriate to pack the waiting room with coffee and drinks machines, there are certainly opportunities for televisual advertising, art for sale (local artists), sponsored videos, and advertisement boards that offer the services of local merchants and tradesmen.

These are just a few of the ways in which we’ve heard GP practices make extra cash. What strategies does your practice employ to ensure it remains solvent and able to serve the community?

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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