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For GP practices, forewarned has to be forearmed

11th August 2020

If you are responsible for funning a GP practice, you will doubtless remember the recent scare caused by certain headlines in the medical press.  Those headlines warned practices that they could find themselves facing a large, unexpected and definitely unwanted tax bill unless their primary care network (PCN) clearly set out how they planned to spend any cash reserves by March 31st.

Given all of the other social, financial and political pressures the medical sector is under – not least the ongoing pandemic – the last thing a GP partner or a Practice Manager needs is yet another thing to worry about.

And if you remember the coverage, you’ll also remember various experts were quick to tell readers they would be “shooting themselves in the foot” if they failed to manage funds properly or that if funding wasn’t quickly distributed between member practices, those members would have to pay tax on funding they’d never received.

There is no doubt the messages behind the warnings were factual and delivered with the best of intentions. However, given this story was published in Pulse in the first week of March and the deadline for PCNs to set out their plans for the 31st of the same month, realistically how much scope was there to find and implement a solution?

To our minds this approach isn’t helpful. Building a successful practice has to be a process; it can never be based on isolated actions or, worse, reactions.

Similarly, you need to be sure the people you choose to guide you through that process genuinely understand the minutiae of your world. After all, it is so much easier to deal with an issue – like a substantial and unexpected tax bill – if you are forewarned and forearmed.

Although the majority of our specialist medical team have served their time in the NHS and GP surgeries, we would never pretend we could manage every aspect of running a 21st Century practice. But we do understand the accounting side.  More specifically, we understand how the various accounting disciplines translate when they’re placed in a healthcare context.

And, that is something we do everything we can to share with the GPs, practice managers and other healthcare professionals we work with.

Rather than waiting until year end or until we’re called, we run a continual programme of updates throughout the year. As specialists, our team is tasked with keeping up to date with the latest developments and issues affecting the financial side of the medical sector. When they spot something that could affect your practice, we’ll put together an email update and create an open seminar (or webinar at the moment) to cover the topic in more detail and give you an opportunity to share best practice and pick up new ideas from your peers.

The most recent addition to our programme was the webinar we ran last week. In it we covered a review of the possible PCN income streams for 2019/20 and the likely costs to expect. We also added a timely reminder – and this takes us back to the March headlines previously mentioned – that their PCN income and expenditure has to be incorporated into their own Practice accounts before tackling a number of more practical tips related to income and expenditure statements, tax, pensions and the new PCN contract for 2020/21.

But even more importantly, if you think anything we alert you to could potentially impact your practice, we’re only at the end of the phone and ready to have a more focused discussion and work out what you need to do next. Why? Because if you’re forewarned, you can be forearmed and no one knows better than the medical profession that prevention is always better than cure.

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