Practices report falling private fees income for second year running

A third of GP practices have seen their income from private and professional fees fall in the past 12 months, according to a poll by GPonline and its sister site Medeconomics.

(Photo: sturti/Getty Images)

A total of 33% of 151 GP partners and practice managers responding to the poll said that income from fees for private or professional work had fallen in the past year.

Just 16% said that income from private fees had increased during that period, while 40% said it had remained the same. The remaining 11% said they did not know how income from private work had changed.

The findings are similar to those from the same poll conducted last year, which found that almost a third of practices had seen income from private and professional fees fall in the preceding 12 months. It suggests a sustained downturn in the level of income practices are receiving from private work.

Impact of GDPR

Many of the GPs and practice managers responding to the poll said that the reason fees had fallen was because of the introduction of the GDPR in May 2018. This means that practices are no longer able to charge patients or their representatives, which include solicitors, for providing patient records under subject access requests (SARs).

In December last year, the BMA released data that showed the number of SARs GP practices received each month had increased by a third since the introduction of the GDPR – and that more than three-quarters of these were being made by companies acting on behalf of patients.

Before the new regulations came into effect, GPs were allowed to charge a fee to cover the administrative costs of completing SARs, but GDPR means that information must now be provided free of charge. This often involves increased workload and cost for practices.

The five-year GP contract for England saw an extra £20m added to the global sum to cover the costs associated with SARs. However, GPs have argued that this is not enough to cover the level of work involved.

Less money for private reports

Along with the increase in SARs, a number of respondents to the GPonline/Medeconomics poll said that insurers and other private companies offering less money for providing reports was also responsible for the downturn in income for this work. Meanwhile, several said they were receiving less requests for information from insurance companies.

Some 23% of practices said that they planned to take steps in the coming year to increase the amount of income they earned from private and professional fees, primarily through reviewing their fees and increasing prices in line with inflation or to better reflect the work involved.

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