Rising number of practices taking on private patients

Increasing numbers of GPs are setting up private patient lists to boost their practice's income, a leading medical accountant has said.

(Photo: iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages)
(Photo: iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages)

Laurence Slavin, a partner at specialist medical accountants Ramsay Brown, said that 10 years ago ‘hardly any’ practices wanted to take on private work.

But growing numbers of GPs have expressed an interest in setting up private patient lists in recent years, he told GPonline.

Profit per partner at GP practices has slumped over the past 10 years and with more than 1,100 practices forced to close or merge to survive since NHS England became operational in 2013, GPs have been forced to consider new ways to bring in funding.

Taking on as little as 75 patients on a private basis could boost practice income by around £75,000, Mr Slavin said.

‘GPs are looking for alternative sources of income,’ Mr Slavin said. ‘But it’s not just about the money, it’s about the quality of the work and enjoying the work. Private appointments can often be longer and more relaxed and involve continuity of care. GPs find they enjoy working this way.’

NHS rules

Under NHS rules GP practices cannot provide any private services to patients already on their lists – with the exception of things like travel vaccinations, medical reports and letters.

There is no restriction on practices providing private services to patients not currently on their list, however there is a limit on how much income practices can earn from private work because they receive rent reimbursement from the NHS to cover premises costs. If practices exceed this limit they could find they have to repay some of this money.

Mr Slavin has set up a company to connect GPs wanting to provide private services with patients prepared to pay, with a focus on continuity of care.

Concierge Choice UK offers patients who join its service same-day or next-day consultations of up to 30 minutes, with patients able to see the same GP each time. The company helps patients to find a GP that they want to register with as a private patient and the patient then signs up with that GP.

Private services

The company's medical director, GP Dr Mark Sweeney, said he believed that enabling GPs to provide private services would encourage more GPs to remain working in the NHS for longer.

‘I have been an NHS GP for over 25 years, and nowadays it has become harder to offer personalised care, where you form long-term relationships with patients and their families, which was the reason many of us became GPs in the first place,’ Dr Sweeney said.

‘We want to enable [GPs] to form these personal relationships with patients and rediscover one of the most satisfying and rewarding parts of the job, continuity of care.’

GPs who join the service take on no more than 75 patients, which means the work does not impact on the NHS services they provide or affect their NHS income, Mr Slavin said.

‘Seventy-five patients could bring in an extra £75,000 to the practice, which GPs can reinvest in their business,’ Mr Slavin said. ‘Because we are talking about low numbers of private patients, GPs don’t have to run separate sessions to accommodate this and they can see patients before or after NHS sessions.’

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