The survey of 272 partners from across the UK found that 54% expected their practice’s income to fall in 2021/22. Some 9% expected income to increase, 18% expected no change and 19% said they were unsure about how their finances would be affected.
The poll also found that 41% of partners experienced a fall in practice income in 2020/21 compared with the previous year, with some citing loss of income from local enhanced services as a key factor.
Huge increases in workload, leading to a greater use of locums to meet demand, as well as additional expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic had also hit practice profits, partners said.
During 2020/21, the QOF was suspended with income for practices protected – a measure NHS England has said it does not plan to repeat this year. CCGs were also asked to suspend all locally-commissioned services apart from those that supported COVID-19 vaccination or other elements of the local pandemic effort, with funding also protected.
However, the GPonline poll suggests that the pandemic still had a detrimental impact on many practices’ income.
One GP said: ‘We would hugely benefit from having more workforce – locums or salaried doctors. However as our income was reduced since the pause in being able to provide our LES services, we simply can’t afford it.’
Another added: ‘We lost out on private rental income and had to take a drawings cut twice due to payment problems involving Primary Care Support England (PCSE) and wanting to reward members of staff with a pay rise for their hard work throughout the pandemic.’
The unprecedented workload now facing general practice has also left partners fearing that profits and their personal income will be hit further in 2021/22.
‘Higher workload means more locums are regularly needed, which negatively impacts practice profits,’ one partner said.
Another said that the only reason profits had remained the same was because ‘the partners are having to work even harder’. They added: ‘Today is my one day off a week and I am doing admin and paperwork all day just to try and keep my head above water A typical day for me is 12-13 hours with a five-minute stop for lunch often taken during a meeting.’
‘It feels like we’re working harder than ever for less pay, which is rather depressing,’ a further GP said.
The BMA warned earlier this month that as many as 1,000 GP practices had yet to receive QOF achievement payments worth up to six-figure sums amid problems with a new pay and pensions system launched by PCSE, sparking concerns over cashflow.
Earlier this month NHS England set out details of two new enhanced services for 2021/22 worth a total of £50m to GP practices. The services include a £30m package for long COVID, and a £20m service for weight management that has been heavily criticised by the BMA.
NHS England has also set out a £120m COVID-19 fund to support ‘expansion of capacity’ in primary care between April and September this year.