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Five ways to plan premises development

Doctors are feeling added pressure due to increased workloads, imposed higher targets, the threat of less resource and confusion over the new structure introduced in April. Of course doctors and practice managers want to provide the best service, with high quality care in pleasant modern surroundings with extensive complementary services.  However, in the current climate, it can be difficult to find the time and resources to make this a reality.

The following five tips might help practices make better use of their premises, especially in light of the new contract.

Ask your patients how best to develop the surgery

Internally within our own culture, the patient is always at the heart of everything we do. We believe improving the patient experience should be the overarching purpose of any changes. Patients should benefit from any actions and we all need to look at things from their perspective, including organisational values and culture, including how we consult patients.

The importance of conducting thorough analysis of a practice’s current position, both with its culture and financially within the market place, cannot be underestimated. From this perspective it is possible to look at opportunities for growth and development for the practice.

Keep your performance data up to date

Understanding and sharing expertise ensures best practice is followed and patients have access to the correct clinical (or in some cases non-clinical) advice and support at a time and location that suits them. Establish what it is that your patients want from their experience of using your service.

To fully embrace this, practices will need to innovate and think carefully about how they best address these evolving patient needs using a variety of different communication and technological methods.

Knowing and measuring how your practice is performing both clinically and operationally gives a good baseline from which to make changes and using a balanced scorecard approach is an effective way of doing this.

Pool resources with local surgeries to improve investment power

There is a real benefit to practices working together on issues such as purchasing and sharing of resources which will ensure better value and more effective use of limited resources.

Federations or grouping of resources can support and result in more funds available for better quality patient experiences. Think laterally about who is around you and what you and they do well. For example within One Medical Group, the centralising of supplies and purchasing has led to a 20% saving on inventory costs.

Consider how you can make your practice more accessible in evenings and at weekends

Another key feature of any surgery is how accessible it is. Can the property be easily accessed by patients? Are you on a bus route? What parking facilities do you have?

Are you able to open your surgery on evenings or weekends – are there any lease restrictions that prevent this? Will patients feel safe visiting in the evening? Some practices operating adjacent to or within 24-hour supermarkets may look more inviting if the Governments extended hours plans become a reality.

Understanding your patients’ needs and requirements and highlighting the key aspects of the practice which meet these shows you are engaged with patients and listened. Patients’ needs may be wide and varied and not always clinical an example of which can be seen in One Medical Group’s patient education centres.

Plan long-term goals for premises development

There are many threats and opportunities for GPs in the new primary care landscape. As a starter, your practice as a business needs to keep a watchful eye on what is happening in your local community. There are many income generation opportunities from your premises, but we should ask ourselves:

  • Does the physical size and layout of the property allow you to offer all of the services you want? Can it be improved? What are the planning regulations associated with your site?
  • Do you have or need any other facilities?
  • Would other useful services in the location attract patients?
  • Look at premises from a patient’s perspective? What do they see? Do you have ‘kerb appeal’?

Premises will often be the practice’s biggest asset, which can have a direct positive financial impact if additional opportunities can be delivered. Even if you can’t get approval for new premises you can make better use of what you have, for example by opening up a new reception area to make a friendlier and more welcoming environment.

Don’t forget about the property and its impact on the business. Look at and understand your current arrangements.  Keep the position and your options under regular review as new opportunities will arise all the time.

Rachel Beverley-Stevenson, is chief executive of One Medical Group.