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Staff costs the fastest rising expense as GPs invest for QOF

Practices spent 17 per cent more on staff costs in 2004/5 as they took on the demands of the quality and outcomes framework for the first time.

The rise – from £62,700 to £73,500 for an average practice – was the biggest out of all practice expenses, the figures from the NHS Information Centre show.

PMS practices (£91,000) continued to spend considerably more on staff compared with GMS (£66,700). Premises costs were the next fastest rising expense, jumping 7.8 per cent to a shade over £12,000.

Overall, expenses rose by 8.3 per cent, the biggest increase in any of the past seven years. But the rise was overshadowed by the significant extra income coming into practices as a result of their high achievement in the QOF.

This meant GPs took home 45 per cent of gross practice earnings, up by 4.5 percentage points from the previous year.

Bob Senior, vice-chair of the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants, said the rise in staff costs was likely to be restricted to the first two years of the new contract.

He said: 'This could be from taking on extra salaried GPs. It might also be to cover extra nursing hours or costs for office or admin staff to handle QOF paperwork. A lot of the extra work to do with QOF has actually been taken on by the GPs themselves.'

Figures for 2005/6 will continue to show staff costs growing because practices would still be expanding to adjust to the QOF and provide more services, Mr Senior added.

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