Locums - Keeping tabs on your finances

Dr Adel Baluch reviews inexpensive book-keeping and invoicing software designed specifically for locums.

PennyPerfect: scheduling sessions in the calendar format is useful
PennyPerfect: scheduling sessions in the calendar format is useful

During most of the past few years when I was a salaried hospital doctor, you could have rightly accused me of having a happy-go-lucky attitude to my income and outgoings.

When, after completing my training a year ago, I found myself working as a self-employed locum GP in London, I realised this would no longer do.

Then I discovered PennyPerfect, a software program designed specifically for UK locum GPs. According to the website, it is an automated invoicing and pension form creator. As I could not find a review of it, I decided to write one myself.

'Demo' format
PennyPerfect can be downloaded in its free 'demo' form, which obviously has some restrictions laid on it, from www.pennyperfect.co.uk

If you decide that you would like to buy it, there is no need to download anything else as payments are accepted through a secure portal on the website. A fee of about £29 will then give you access to the full version via a 'licence key', which does require annual renewal.

When you have access to the full version, you will be able to use a number of features including:

  • Invoicing using professional-looking PDF documents (there is a selection of styles or you can edit and design your own).
  • Creating automated pension forms.
  • Organising and scheduling your sessions.
  • Producing graphs comparing different periods of pay, hours and so on.
  • Producing summaries to help with tax and self-assessment.
  • Creating a record of your work-related expenses (such as travel and courses) as individual or linked costs.

Generally the software is quite simple to use. There is a step-by-step user guide on the website and some demo videos to help you.

The invoices PennyPerfect creates do indeed look impressive. These can be sent via email or, for the more traditional locum GP, printed.

I found scheduling my sessions in calendar format quite useful, and this can be synchronised with Microsoft Outlook or Google calendars.

You can also enter and view your sessions on a spreadsheet. Repeating entries for regular sessions for the same healthcare provider is also simple. The program usefully differentiates between which providers are NHS, out-of-hours or private.

It is easy to generate NHS pension forms and do calculations on them and you can upload your signature. NHS forms for superannuable earnings can be created for each type of locum session respectively.

For example, forms A to D and 'solo' are all catered for. (For more information about what these forms are used for, see www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/pensions)

There is also a Scottish pension forms option. All of this data can be manipulated into graphs or even exported to other software programs or computers.


Program uses

Sessions: Calendars, repeat bookings, fee rates.

Invoicing: Templates, notes, designing forms.

Pensions: NHS superannuable earnings forms, recording additional voluntary contributions and added years.

Expenses: Mileage, general, session expenses.

Compiling reports (income, etc): General, customised, chart format.

Other: Calendar synchronising, back-ups.


Drawbacks
PennyPerfect does have a few drawbacks, such as lack of compatibility with Apple OS or Linux, as it is mainly aimed at the Windows PC market.

Other negative points include the inability to make adjustments and record debts - for example, if a practice does not pay the full amount.

Also, if data is password-protected and the password is forgotten, I personally could not find any way to recover data.

You also cannot create pension forms specific to a practice rather than to a period of time. So if you worked in different surgeries during a month, the pension form includes all of them without differentiating, making tailoring your form to where you worked a bit fiddly.

But overall, as a locum GP, I found PennyPerfect an indispensable tool. If you are looking for a fully comprehensive accounting program then this is not it, nor does it claim to be.

If, like me, you want something to save you from the tedium of sorting out invoicing, pension forms and logging expenses in one simple and powerful software package, this might be just what you are looking for.

  • Former locum Dr Baluch has recently become a partner at a London practice

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