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Make use of the summer quiet period

Many practices find it tempting to put their feet up in the summer - but now is the time to check your business is healthy, says Dr John Couch

Many practices find it tempting to put their feet up in the summer - but now is the time to check your business is healthy, says Dr John Couch

For most practices, our seaside colleagues excluded, summer is a relatively quiet period of the year. It is a time when one is tempted to drop down a gear and enjoy a less frenetic pace. Unfortunately, this is a luxury you ought to avoid as it is also one of the few moments when there is time to check that your business has started the first half of the year in good shape.

It is good practice to take an overview occasionally. This week I want to suggest you check all of your income streams. This check should begin with your list size. List size is always important, but never more so than today:

your patient numbers dictate up to 80% of your income. Make sure that your list is at least stable or, ideally, increasing.

If you feel you have too many patients, it is probably worth considering more doctors or nurses rather than trying to stem the flow. It is much harder to reverse a falling list than the opposite. Just make sure that you only take on exactly the amount of extra clinical time that you need.

Are your quality framework figures on track? As there are no new domains this year there is little excuse to perform badly. If you find any areas below target, check the reasons quickly and make the required changes now.

Be particularly careful to rectify underperforming indicators from 2006/07.

Enhanced services have got off to a slower start this year. This is because of the majority of PCTs reorganising and the cessation of GPC/NHS employers discussions after the failed GP pay negotiations. By now you should know what your PCT is funding. If you are still in the dark, either contact your LMS or PCT direct.

You need to know figures for practice-based commissioning, Choose and Book and access. If you have not yet signed appropriate agreements or produced an approved action plan, do so now. Finally, check that your other existing services were paid correctly on your first quarter statement.

Next review all your private income. Ensure that fees direct from patients and from insurance companies and reports are all being received and are in line with projections. Check that you have updated fees this year. Check income from outside or in-house private work. Are payments up to date? Is there scope for expansion?

Your annual accounts are relevant at this point as they will help you identify and quantify all income areas. Have you received your draft accounts yet? If not, chase them as a matter of urgency. If you had your records ready for the accountants promptly at your business year end, you should expect a draft within eight weeks.

Your accounts will help identify debtors (money owed to you) at the year end. These will include items such as your QOF and access balances, late PCT payments, late private invoices and any 2005/06 super- annuation overpayment. These represent considerable sums. Check and chase them with vigour.

If you do manage all this work before the end of the summer, you can certainly treat yourself to a cool drink in your garden ¬ at least until the schools go back; and provided it is not still raining.

Dr John Couch is a GP in Ashford, Middlesex

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