In one of my recent blogs, I wrote about the number of GP surgeries that have either closed or merged in Devon during the 18-month period between July 2017 and the end of last year…and it would appear the trend is not a local one.
GPonline has analysed NHS Digital data on registered patients and found that 254 GP practices listed in April, 2017, no longer appear in the figures for April, 2018. More than 250 GP surgeries that used to serve almost 1 million patients across England closed or merged during the past year alone.
This is trend does not surprise me as I have visited multiple GP surgeries that are desperately trying to cut costs and improve patient access on non-existent budgets. This echoes the opinion of General Practice Committee (GPC) executive committee member Dr Mark Sanford-Wood who warned that “most practices are operating on the edge of viability”.
While representative organisations like the GPC and the British Medical Association (BMA) continue to call for more Government funding, practice managers and senior partners are left trying to cope with the budget they know they have available to them. In most cases, they are just attempting to cover their costs; there is no budget for investment to try to improve their services.
However, there is one scenario where GP surgeries can find cost savings and gain the advantages of new technology. We have migrated multiple surgeries from their traditional telephone systems to a cloud-hosted solution so they can benefit from free calls, reduced line rentals and inclusive support and upgrade costs.
These new telephony solutions have been installed with no upfront costs and, in 90% of cases, the monthly costs are less than what they were paying before. It sounds like a gimmick, but this really is a much-needed light at the end of the tunnel for GP surgeries that are struggling with end-of-life systems and want to offer better services to their patients.
We can use the same solution to link practices together, even if a single site joins a federation at a later date. Cloud-hosted telephone systems can also scale upwards so if a surgery takes on the patient list of a closing surgery and recruits more staff, these extra users can be easily added.
We don’t want to see any more GP surgeries close in 2018/19, so I would advise them to find innovative ways of managing their budgets…and sometimes that might mean considering something new. If you need any more information on how a cloud-hosted telephone system could save you money, please do not hesitate to get in touch.