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It's what GP practices do with resources that counts

In addition to my work as an accountant, I am also a trustee of a small environmental charity. The charity has an income largely from property of around £100,000 per annum. My co-trustee - a practicing solicitor - and myself meet twice a year to inspect the properties and to decide to which charities we should send the trust's money.

I probably get three or four applications per day from hopeful potential beneficiaries, from charities as well known as the Zoological Society of London, to the hopelessly hopeful Save the Rat Society and the obscure Eco Transylvania.

The solicitor trustee carefully looks at each charity’s documentation to ensure they are properly registered and my role is to review the accounts of each charity to see how much of their income gets used up in administration and running expenses, and how much actually gets used on proper charitable work.

The GP who set up this charity on his death in the 1970s would no doubt be turning in his grave if we funded charities spending 50% of their income on administration while other smaller charities spend less than 5%.

And so last Friday, my co-trustee and I had a rather enjoyable afternoon looking through a report I prepared on each charity’s finances and making our six monthly selection. I think the long deceased founder of the charity would be satisfied with our process, but what would he make of the way GP 'trustees' deal with them?

I mean of course, the blinkered way that PCTs continue to be obsessed at looking at the resources given to GP surgeries rather than the way they are run and what they do with their money.

Last week, a decent and average earning two partner PMS practice client of mine received a letter from the PCT telling them that their income is going to fall by £65,000 in 2012/13 and £123,000 in 2013/14. There has been no analysis of what the practice does with this money, and of course since 2012/13 starts in just four months' time, the practice has hardly got any time to make the structural changes necessary to save this practice. After these changes a partner in this excellent practice will be earning just £62,000, less than the salaried GP they employ.

I have said this before, but focusing on what resources are given rather than what is done with the resources is lazy, misguided and ultimately self defeating.

I would not need to look at the potential beneficiaries accounts, I could make a spurious analysis based on the income (and not looking at the expenses) of the charity. It would be easier, and quicker, but would not mean the charity’s donation would be well spent. The same applies to funding GP practices. This obsession with looking at income alone should end.

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