The GPnetworks story so far

GPnetworks: How a simple idea changed the face of locum GP procurement in its own back-yard and how something saving approximately half a million pounds a year is a failure.

Author: Joe Aliferis

A few years ago, a friend of mine, a locum GP, asked me if I could design a web application that could allow locum GPs to share their availability to work with their potential employers – at the time, mostly Primary care practices.

I instinctively said yes as I knew if must be possible but then had to go away a think it through. A few months later, the first release of GPnetworks was born. This was back in 2004 – before Facebook and the explosion of social media. It was primitive but, compared to anything else out there at the time, it was revolutionary. A professional network that matched locums to the requirements of employers, in an elegant way. It saved time and money.

Myself and my friend quickly started the company up then won some local contracts from PCTs to supply it. In a matter of a few months, hundreds of GPs and practices were using it every day – saving time and money. We had created a system with a User Interface that was easy enough for non-techie folks to use but that delivered business functionality sophisticated enough to end their dependency on agencies – in our area at least.

Within a couple of years we had gained a few more PCT contracts are were delivering our solution to a network from Chichester to Eastbourne and into South London. We had a simple business model – a PCT procured the system for its entire area at a fixed annual fee and we rolled it out to all practices and locum GPs in that area.

By 2007 our system got its first major update – the key part of this was geolocating. We switched from matching people in groups, by notional geographical zones (PCT areas) to matching everyone, individually to everyone else, by distance. Or, to put it more succinctly, by proximity to each other. At this point we had a truly effective system capable of creating the most effective sharing of human resources possible within its scope. We had also built a full booking and scheduling system on top of our initial availability system, providing an end-to-end service. All we had to do now was expand the scope.

Then things changed…

Funding for the NHS began to be squeezed in all areas and soon our PCT funding dried up. It became known that PCTs were to be replaced by CCGs. We knew that our business model would no longer work so we set out to modify our system so that we could build individual relationships with each practice using our system.

Over the next couple of years, as PCT contracts were not renewed, we managed to convert almost all our practice customers to a direct relationship with us using a simple subscription model. This meant that they paid us directly an annual fee for unlimited use and support. However, the real long term effect of the change within the NHS and our subsequent change to a subscription model has been that we have been unable to grow over the last 6 years. Simply put, our business model does not work.

Today, GPnetworks is used frequently by its loyal customers and highly regarded by those that make use of it. On average it handles over 3000 user account logins a month from around 500 users. It sends out over 2200 work requests a month and schedules around 1200 confirmed work placements a month for locum GPs. It also helps to place many GPs into salaried posts, long term cover and partnerships via its sibling Salaried Jobs System. A free service for its subscribers.

The irony is that, were our system to be scaled up, were it to be rolled out over a wider area, it would become even more effective and could be saving many millions of pounds within Primary Care!

This is a bitter sweet effect for myself and my partner. On the one hand we had created something transformative, we had made it work, we had proved it could save time and money. On the other hand, we have so far failed to realise the full potential of our innovation. It sits in a small corner of the UK, a big success in its own back-garden, relatively unknown everywhere else.

Anyone got any ideas ?

Update: in March 2017, we released the third major update of our system. The innovation continues. For the full details of how GPnetworks works, who uses it, who could use it and how much could be saved, please drop me a message/connect.

www.gpnetworks.co.uk

joe@gpnetworks.co.uk

LinkedIn

Sole Trader vs Limited Company: Which One Should You Be?

Sole Trader vs Limited Company: Which One Should You Be?

Author: Joshua Danton Boyd – Crunch Accounting

It’s clear the life of a locum doctor can be stressful and time-consuming. It’s no surprise then when it comes to getting paid many will take the simpler choice. While ease may rank highly, in the end, you want to be doing things in the most fiscally efficient way possible. NHS and locum agencies may be simple, but they can also bring your income down.

The next simplest choice is to become a sole trader. In other words, you become self-employed. This is a fairly easy process and pretty much means you become responsible for receiving your wages and ensuring you pay the correct tax on it all. That’s done with a yearly Self-Assessment and can be fairly straightforward if you keep on top of your papers and accounts over the year.

An added benefit though is the ability to claim expenses against the tax you pay. This can include things like travel and equipment costs. While it does make doing your accounts a slight more complicated, it could end up saving you a fair bit of cash too.

Another option is to form your own Limited Company. This, depending on your situation, can have even more benefits. First of all, you can of course claim business costs to bring your tax down which is always handy. After that, things get a little bit more complicated.

A Limited Company is often the most tax efficient way to pay yourself. This is done by giving yourself a set salary equal to the national minimum wage. This brings down the level of income tax that you pay. To top that up, you then pay yourself in dividends which are taxed at a lower rate. This can lead to massive savings.

For example, if you had an income of £40,000, by forming a Limited Company you could be saving yourself well over £2,000 a year. That’s also without including any expenses that you could further claim to bring that number up. The more you earn, the more going incorporated will get you.

A Limited Company does mean more work though and is certainly a more tricky method than being a sole trader. The simple way to think that though is to hire yourself an accountant. In most cases the savings you’ll be making will easily cover the accounting fees with plenty left over.

They’ll take on all the hard work, and with someone like us at Crunch, it’ll just be a matter of using a simple piece of software. We even do the whole process from scratch starting with your incorporation as a limited company!

So, it’s certainly worth looking into if you haven’t already. There’s a lot of money to be saved if you’re willing to make a change.

Visit Crunch now to find out about their services

NHS Superannuation Changes – NHS pension scheme

Posted to GPnetworks by a locum GP

It seems that with the final dismantling of pcts, the mechanism for
involvement in the NHS pension scheme will change for GP locums from next
April.
Currently, we pay the tiered employee contribution and the pct adds the
employer contribution.
The government proposal is that the employing practices will now be
responsible for the latter. The money for this will be added to the global
sum.

I am worried that practices will not be keen on this and won't like the
extra cost/administration involved.This may be a big cost for practices who
use locums a lot. It may be difficult for locums to remain competitive and
remain in pension scheme.

I am interested what other colleagues think...

NHS Superannuation Changes – NHS pension scheme

Posted to GPnetworks by a locum GP

It seems that with the final dismantling of pcts, the mechanism for
involvement in the NHS pension scheme will change for GP locums from next
April.
Currently, we pay the tiered employee contribution and the pct adds the
employer contribution.
The government proposal is that the employing practices will now be
responsible for the latter. The money for this will be added to the global
sum.

I am worried that practices will not be keen on this and won't like the
extra cost/administration involved.This may be a big cost for practices who
use locums a lot. It may be difficult for locums to remain competitive and
remain in pension scheme.

I am interested what other colleagues think...

Working in partnership for better business and health outcomes

Date: Thursday 17 November 2011
Location: Victory Services Club, London
Event organised by: PCC (www.pcc.nhs.uk)
Cost: FREE

Summary:
GPnetworks has been offered 30 free places at the event (normal price £195), available to our practice members, on a first-come-first-served basis. Email admin@gpnetworks.co.uk if you wish to attend and we will send you a registration code that will allow free registration.

Event description:
With practice mergers increasing and increasing pressure on practices to think and behave collectively in the transition to CCGs, practice managers and partners need to be aware of the consequences of change. This event looks in detail at the benefits and pitfalls of working in partnership whether through merger or federation with other providers or less formal routes.

One session looks at the business considerations of practice mergers and splits, and the potential consequences of incorporation. What are the financial consequences for a high-performing practice of merging with an average achiever? What non-financial factors do practices need to consider before merging – eg population profile and performance against patient survey indicators? What are the risks if it goes wrong?

Other sessions look at:

• How to federate and the benefits of federation, including group purchasing
• Working with patient reference groups, particularly in light of the PP DES
• Working with community pharmacy to reduce costs and improve service deliverables
• A pilot scheme to increase choice and reduce the cost of online procurement designed with and aimed at practice managers

The event also covers real-life examples of federation, considering how the risks can be mitigated and the benefits optimised for the benefit of all stakeholders from purchasing to patient participation.

The new patient participation DES makes explicit the link between more effective patient representation and practice income, but the connection needs to be hard-wired to the strategy. If the needs of patients are not permanently aligned with business development plans, your aspirations to grow the business and better serve the local population could be compromised.

PCC event info and registration here

To register for free, contact admin@gpnetworks.co.uk for an event registration code

Delegates attending: GPs, practice managers, other practice staff and PCT primary care leads.