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Finance not just the senior partner's business

'Even the cleaner needs to play a part in your practice being profitable'. This was one of the first things said at Pulse's Essential Financial Skills seminar last week.

'Even the cleaner needs to play a part in your practice being profitable'. This was one of the first things said at Pulse's Essential Financial Skills seminar last week.

It was the view of GP Dr Richard van Mallaerts, who opened proceedings with a presentation on understanding how to boost NHS income, and was a thought provoking way to start the day.

Traditionally, one GP at the practice - often the senior partner close to retirement - deals with the finance stuff. Most other GPs in my experience go cold at the mention of balance sheets and cash flow. Though they're always interested in drawings of course.

But Dr van Mallaerts argument, echoed by other presenters, was that these days had to end. It's not just the boss of your local Tesco branch who understands how it makes money, he continued, it's everyone from the checkout assistants to to the shelf stackers. And as GPs are starting to compete with the likes of Tesco, they need to be thinking like those organisations.

And it seemed, from the delegates I spoke to, that this message is starting to get through.

One of the most noticable things about the make up of the 250 or so people at the event were the number of youthful faces. I spoke to several GPs, some of whom I suspect were younger than me (I thought it was when your sporting heroes were all younger than you that you started to feel old, now I realise it's when you meet GPs who are), who were determined to get a grip on the financial stuff.

Some of these GPs were new partners, others were locums and salaried doctors who wanted to know what it was all about to make themselves more marketable to prospective future partners.

I was struck by the desire of the younger GPs I spoke to to push their practices forwards and sieze the opportunities that are out there.

What they would have gleaned is that there's lots of scary stuff on the horizon. World Class Commissioning was the biggie according to Dr Howard Freeman and Dr Rory McRea put it well when he said general practice had been 'catapulted into a capitalist world, which was now falling apart'.

They would also have gleaned that practice finances are devilishly intricate, but the principles underpinnning running the business are simple.

If you're doing stuff that costs more than you get back for it, stop doing it. If you fancy doing more stuff, make sure you know the costs and profit before you chuck your hat in the ring. And when you do do stuff, claim the money back.

I found the day surprisingly interesting (I say surprisingly, because given I don't have to run a practice, just write about those who do, the intricacies of how it works can challenge my attention span - particularly in the post-lunch session when I'd have trouble staying awake even if the topic was 'A practical demonstration of lovemaking, featuring Angelina Jolie') and quite uplifting.

So, the question is, does everyone at your practice know how it makes money? And what it could do to make more?

Even the cleaner?

250 GPs and practice managers attended Pulse's Essential Financial Skills seminar Essential Financial Skills Practice finances shouldn't be left in the hands of one partner Upcoming Pulse Seminars

Futureproof your practice - click to see the programme Dermatology - click to see the agenda Click to download brochure
Futureproofing your practice

26 March 2009
The Hotel Russell, London

23 April 2009
The Royal Society, London
Clinical challenges

30 April 2009
National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull

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