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I'm worried my partner is taking practice cash

To cut a long story short, for some time now I have suspected that one of my partners is not playing fair with cash that comes in from private certificates, medicals and so on. This is practice income but doesn't appear to be making it into the practice accounts. I do not want to make any unfounded accusations ­ how should I proceed?

GP's advice

Make inquiries before accusing your partner

You should proceed with great care, as handled wrongly or insensitively your suspicion could break up your partnership.

Is there any possibility your partner finds it difficult to charge patients he knows and is thus not taking in cash?

Does he have cash lying around in his desk (there was recently a case of a GP producing £400 when he cleared his desk on retirement) or has he borrowed cash (keeping a record) or taken cash for expenses either paid in on his behalf or paid out by him for the practice?

Of a more serious significance, does he have money troubles you know of ­ a recent divorce, a family living beyond his means, an alcohol or gambling addiction?

Make discreet inquiries of the practice manager, bookkeeper and possibly other partners before deciding whether you should talk to the partner concerned or generally set about tightening up all practice accounting procedures.

A simple rule that all

fees for certificates and so on are collected in reception might help.

GP's advice

If guilty, go for confrontation

­ big time

Are these cash worries the real problem in your practice or are you just looking round for a stick to beat your partner? What has been happening that's made you suspect for some time that your partner is not playing fair?

Assuming the practice is harmonious, are individual cash earnings logged, so the discrepancy is obvious, or is it a suspicion of the practice manager/bookkeeper?

If these sorts of earnings are recorded for each doctor it should be fairly simple to bring the subject up at the next practice meeting. If it isn't recorded it's perfectly reasonable, given the role of probity in appraisal, to suggest it is. It doesn't need to be threatening: 'How can we maximise income from certificates?' and 'Wouldn't it be a good idea to record which doctor is being paid what?'­ that sort of thing.

If it turns out that one partner is returning far less than the rest and there's no obvious explanation, you'll need to decide what to do.

If you can prove he's collecting the money and pocketing it I'd go for confrontation. Big time. If he's just too soft-hearted to charge patients there's not much point in asking him to send every patient to the reception desk. He'll probably be too soft for that as well.

Why not propose that all partners keep everything they earn from certificates and medicals?

It will make the accounts a little harder but if it avoids a practice rift it will be worth it.

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