How GP Practices Can Maximise Funding with Phone Systems

The funding of GP practices is complex and under constant criticism. Improved telephony supplies a cost-effective solution.

How GP Practices Can Maximise Funding with Phone Systems

GP practice phone systems may not be an obvious solution to the ongoing healthcare funding crises. But they are an extremely effective one.

GP practices and surgeries are, of course, under immense pressure to maximise funds and optimise processes. To save on long-term costs, NHS England has recently committed to £250m of GP practice funding streams. A targeted area of improvement to enhance the patient access policy implemented by the NHS is GP practice phone systems.

However, this funding has been criticised by Dr Richard Vautrey of the BMA (British Medical Association) as ‘underwhelming’ and “completely out of touch with the scale of the crisis on the ground”.

Specifically, the strategy to enhance GP practice phone systems is thought to be a wasted opportunity. Too many GP practices and surgeries will opt for telephony, lacking the comprehensive services offered by utilities such as EVAD’s Award Winning Think Healthcare, which can be seen as a management solution rather than merely an enhancement of current reception services.

To understand the nature of the patient access to services debate – and how GP services are being asked to maximise the funding allocated to it – we must first look at how GP practices are funded in England.

How are GP practices funded?

GP practice phone systems are squarely in the spotlight because most healthcare professionals agree on the need to improve them. But the way GP practices are funded, and a lack of healthcare telephony knowledge, has caused concern for many of those same professionals.

The way general practices are contracted and funded is complex. In comparison to other parts of the health and care system, GP practice funding streams are the responsibility of GP partners (one of which must be a GP) who handle the requirements set out in the contract for their practice and share the income it provides.

Core contract agreements are the main source of GP practice and surgery income. If mandatory requirements are met, and essential services are satisfactorily running, alongside agreed out-of-hours services, a ‘global sum payment’ is gifted to the general practice (rather than the individual GPs).

Other sources of income include NHS Quality and Outcomes Framework, where payments are made if certain performance measures are met. In addition, private services can be used to top-up NHS funding as part of the NHS patient access policy, but these services must be limited.

It is important to note that these are merely the central funding streams and can be – and often are – subject to several types of provisions laid out by the three main NHS commissioners: General Medical Services (GMS), Personal Medical Services (PMS) and Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS).

This myriad of complexities, and regularly fluctuating funding allocations and patient demand, put GP practices and surgeries under intense pressure to continually maximise GP practice funding.

Outgoings

GP partners must consider at least five major outgoings when balancing GP practice budgets: office and IT costs, clinical consumables, rent cost for GP surgeries, salaries and staffing costs and interest.

A GP practice workforce – including salaried GPs, nurses, health care assistants and administrative staff – accounts for most of these costs.

These staff are not employed by the NHS, so it is the responsibility of the GP partners to ensure that salary costs are met. That means payments are not subject to Agenda for Change arrangements.

Any losses made at a GP practice or surgery is the sole responsibility of GP partners. These must be paid from the income of the partners.

Evidently, a sustainable practice that can meet patient demands, and the shifting criterion of core payment requirements, is a stressful and complex undertaking. One area continually identified as especially wasteful is current GP practice phone systems. An improvement to standard GP telephony is essential.

How to improve GP telephony healthcare?

  • Introduce multiline phone systems to for quicker access to healthcare professionals
  • Communicate the expected waiting time and queue position of each caller
  • Eliminate silence – provide pertinent information and advice
  • Instant access to name and details before reception have taken the call
  • Automatically recognise and log new patient contact number
  • Instant access to metrics to further enhance patient service
  • Implement as part of patient access improvement plan

EVAD’s Award Winning Think Healthcare Solution

EVAD’s Think Healthcare package is a healthcare telephony contact management solution designed to help managers, receptionists and clinical staff to achieve the critical goals highlighted above.

Linking your telephone and patient management setup into a healthcare telephony system speeds up patient verification, improves patient service and assists with metrics.

From the patients’ point of view, a GP practice that does not answer the phone is a chastening experience. For medical professionals, a lack of instant access to critical information is a source of frustration. Financial pressures are often the cause of both scenarios.

Think Healthcare offers a telephony communication solution that can seamlessly link to existing patient record systems, creating a hub for your electronic clinical systems.

The result is a single healthcare telephone package that cuts costs, increases patient healthcare and supplies a management interface for the entire organisation. It can even be used across multiple practices.

Much of the criticism aimed at the government’s current attempts to improve GP phone systems is that it merely readjusts reception services. Think Healthcare assures a streamlined communication package that means less waiting, more consultations – and far more appointments.

To find a telephony service that maximises your surgery funding, visit our Think Healthcare page today.

Having won Best Telecom Provider of the Year at this years’ General Practice Awards EVAD are busier than ever working with practices across the UK. Get in touch to find out more!

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