Exclusive: Practices struggle to find efficiency savings demanded by DoH

Just 8% of GPs expect their practice will be able to find the 1% 'efficiency saving' demanded by the DoH in 2010/11, a GP poll shows.

Dr McKeown: 'We cannot afford to do anything for charity or philanthropy any more'
Dr McKeown: 'We cannot afford to do anything for charity or philanthropy any more'

The survey, which received responses from 720 UK GPs, reveals 12% of practices are instead likely to cut services after this year's 0.8% GMS pay award.

The Doctor and Dentists Pay Review Body (DDRB) recommended a 1.34% rise to maintain practices' income in 2010/11. But ministers overruled the advice for the first time, awarding 0.8% and calling for GPs to cut their costs by 1%.

One respondent said there was ‘no area to reduce costs without reducing our services', while another added ‘we're already working flat out'. 

A further 6% of GPs think their practice will have to make redundancies. One GP partner in the West Midlands explained: ‘Apart from laying off staff, we have no efficiencies to make. 80% of our expenses are staff salaries.'

Some GPs believe savings can be made, however. One respondent said he could cut costs by ‘purchasing in bulk as a consortium, and by efficient use of energy and staff hours'.

As the GPC claimed when the award was announced, the award is effectively a cut for most practices. 75% of respondents expect practice profits to fall in 2010/11. ‘It will fall to the partners to reduce our own pay yet again,' said one GP.

As profits fall, most practices are unsure whether they can afford to implement DDRB recommendations for staff pay.

Over a third of GPs (36%) believe their practice will not implement the recommended 1% rise for salaried GPs, while nearly half are undecided (46%).

GPC member Dr Helena McKeown warned that patient care could ultimately suffer as practices look to cut back non-essential activities.

‘We cannot afford to do anything for charity or philanthropy any more,' she said.

Valuable activities like medical teaching and staff training were ‘soft targets' that GP practices may be forced to cut back on, she added.

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