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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Accountancy warning

From Nick Bentley

Practice manager

Shipley, West Yorkshire

Dr John Couch outlines the qualities of a 'good' accountant ('Does your accountant measure up?', Financial,

1 June) but his summary of the 'good accountant' is steeped in archaic practice management better suited to Bob Cratchet than the 21st century.

This model of the accountant visiting to 'collect books' at a point between 'one to two months into the new accounting year' and 'accounts should be ready within six months of the year-end' will assist practice failures as the new competitive world dawns.

The inevitable deterioration in practice incomes through the erosion of the global sum, stiffer QOF targets and zero inflation means practices must plan, forecast and monitor actual performance on a regular basis throughout the year in order to minimise profit leakage.

At least as frequently as quarterly, accurate accounts should be prepared to allow partners to confirm performance against set targets and to adjust variables as soon as possible to ensure profit levels are maintained.

Good accounting is also critical in ensuring that new initiatives such as APMS contracts, which will be increasingly available as secondary care work is moved into primary care, can be closely scrutinised at very regular intervals to ensure that planned throughput targets and cost budgets are being adhered to.

The model Dr Couch describes delivers the necessary information far too late to be an effective management tool.

Accountants should be moving to change this historic model and assist practices to develop the monitoring skills to deliver the quick, accurate results required by businesses in today's climate.

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