Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

How to Start a General Practice in the UK in 2024

In comparison to other European countries, only a few individuals, approximately 10.5% of the population, opt for private medical insurance policies in the United Kingdom. For individuals requiring urgent medical assistance due to illness or injury, having private medical insurance can offer certain advantages.

The private healthcare sector in the UK encountered challenges during the pandemic, witnessing an upsurge in demand attributed to significant waiting times in the NHS. Since then, private practices in the UK have gained momentum for development, prompting many general practitioners to consider the possibility of establishing their own private GP services.

Embarking on a business journey is a dream for many healthcare professionals. However, along with the benefits come challenges, new responsibilities, and tasks. Today, we will delve into the detailed process of starting a private GP practice, addressing legal matters, marketing, and the selection of software for process automation.

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Medesk is an assistant for clinic managers, collects and presents complex statistics about the work of the clinic in a simple and understandable way, that makes it easier for the manager to make both operational and strategic decisions.

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Skills and Qualifications Needed to Start a GP Practice

Any fully registered medical practitioner is eligible to initiate a private practice. There is no singular business opening blueprint; however, certain mandatory qualifications must be considered.

  1. Acquire a recognized medical degree from an accredited medical school.
  2. Attain full registration as a medical practitioner in the country or region where you intend to establish the GP practice.
  3. Successfully finish any necessary foundation or internship programme subsequent to medical school.
  4. Depending on the jurisdiction, contemplate obtaining specialist registration if concentrating on a specific facet of general practice.

In addition to these, regulatory procedures await you.

  1. Register with the relevant medical regulatory authority, such as the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK. Follow their guidelines on professional conduct and responsibilities.
  2. Register with the Care Quality Commission. Registering with the CQC is a legal requirement for all healthcare providers in England who offer regulated activities. Private practices fall under this category, and failure to register can result in legal consequences: financial penalties, closure orders, or even criminal prosecution.
  3. Acquire medical indemnity cover from a recognized provider to protect against legal and professional liabilities.
  4. Apply for a license to obtain admitting rights and privileges.
  5. Register with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) to legally handle patient data.
  6. Register with HMRC to comply with tax regulations and fulfil your tax obligations.
  7. Choose your structure: sole trader, partnership, limited company, or hospital-owned.

Practice Management

Once all legal requirements are met, the most exciting phase begins: managing your newly established business. Depending on whether you opt for online or offline operations and the structure you choose, key elements that require careful consideration include:

  • Business plan development
  • Appropriate premises
  • Effective marketing
  • Appointment systems and client policies
  • Staff management
  • Technology integration
  • Continuing professional development
  • Revalidation

Business plan development

Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your practice's objectives, target market, services offered, and financial projections.

It is essential to clearly formulate the direction of your business and outline potential avenues for development. In the business plan for a private clinic, goals can be set based on the desired achievements, considering your capabilities, demand, and the economic situation in the region.

For instance, attracting residents from municipal clinics and the regional centre with an average bill of £100 in the first six months Break-even is expected within two years.

Next, articulate the tasks necessary to achieve these goals, such as:

  1. Advertise before opening to ensure an immediate client influx.
  2. Develop promotions for the first and second halves of the year.
  3. Find a suitable location and create a financial plan for the first branch.

The business plan for the medical clinic should also include a description of the services you intend to offer.

  • A list of services
  • Quality comparisons with competitors
  • How and by whom services will be provided, the procurement of medications, and the use of equipment
  • Future prospects.

Conduct a thorough analysis of competitors to formulate an offering that outshines theirs. Simultaneously, create a profile of the potential client, considering their needs and financial capacity. A deep market analysis in the business plan before opening the clinic will allow you to calculate the project's payback period and avoid setbacks at the outset.

Develop a financial plan reflecting all expenses (one-time and ongoing), income, and profit forecasts. Categorize expenses into immediate requirements:

  • Business registration
  • Licensing
  • Office renovation and utility setup
  • Two months' rent
  • Purchase of equipment, office supplies, furniture, and consumables
  • Salary payments for the first month
  • Advertising.

Calculate monthly expenses to be incorporated into the company's budget:

  • Rent
  • Salaries
  • Supplies and medications
  • Utilities payments
  • Taxes.

Subsequently, set pricing for services, as these will constitute your revenue. Calculate the minimum monthly appointments needed to cover all expenses while maintaining profitability.

Premises selection

Conduct market research to choose appropriate premises for the GP practice, considering location and accessibility.

What to consider when choosing premises for a private practice:

Legal zoning and permissions. Obtain any necessary permits or approvals from local authorities before establishing the practice.

Accessibility. Keep in mind convenience for future patients. It's a plus if your office is near public transportation stops or has parking space.

Adequate space. Depending on the practice's size, ensure the premises have enough space to allocate areas for consultation rooms, waiting areas, administrative offices, and any additional facilities required.

Compliance with building codes. The premises should be safe and accessible, with features like fire exits, emergency lighting, and wheelchair accessibility.

Infection control measures. Hygiene and cleanliness are crucial for your practice's reputation. Monitor proper sanitation, waste disposal, and procedures to prevent the spread of infections.

Security systems. Safeguard patient data both in physical and electronic formats. This may involve using surveillance cameras, secure data storage, and alarm systems.

Waiting area comfort. Waiting rooms play a vital role for patients. The comfort and convenience of this space often shape clients' perceptions of the entire clinic. Your goal is to make the wait unobtrusive and even beneficial. Leave information about your special promotions and bonuses on tables in the waiting room.

Accessibility for people with disabilities. Consider offering telemedicine services and installing ramps, elevators, and facilities designed for patients with mobility challenges. Utilizing both options is recommended.

Signage. Ensure visibility by installing clear and visible signage to guide patients to the practice. Include information such as the practice's name, working hours, and emergency contact details.

Effective marketing

Marketing campaigns for business development deserve dedicated articles, if not a series. Here, we'll briefly list essential tools needed during the clinic's opening and in its initial months.

Strong brand identity. A distinctive logo, personalized colours on signs and websites, and a memorable tagline will set your brand apart from competitors.

Build a user-Ffriendly website and SEO. Your website is your business card. An effective online presence should showcase your services, special promotions, and offers, along with contact information and the option for online appointments. Optimizing your site with SEO tools enhances its visibility on search engines and amplifies the impact of content marketing.

Online reviews and testimonials. Encourage satisfied patients to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or health-specific review sites. Positive testimonials build trust and credibility.

Social media presence. Establish a presence on popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Share informative content, engage with the community, and use social media advertising to reach a wider audience.

Provide customers with the opportunity to communicate with you via the maximum number of channels. At Medesk, setting up an online appointment link in social networks or advertising will take only 15 minutes!

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Local community engagement. Participate in local events, health fairs, and community activities. Sponsor or host events that promote health and wellness. Building a local presence enhances community trust.

Networking with referral sources. Establish relationships with local healthcare providers, specialists, and community organizations. Referrals from other health professionals can be a significant source of patients.

Email Marketing. Build an email list and regularly communicate with patients. Send newsletters, updates, and health tips to keep patients informed and engaged. Email marketing can also be used for appointment reminders and announcements.

Patient Referral Programme. Implement a referral programme that rewards existing patients for referring new patients. Word-of-mouth referrals are powerful in the healthcare industry.

Optimize Google My Business. Ensure your practice is listed and optimized on Google My Business. This helps with local search rankings and provides important information for potential patients, such as operating hours and reviews.

Remember to track the effectiveness of your marketing strategies by monitoring patient acquisition sources, website analytics, and patient feedback. Adjust your approach based on what works best for your specific practice and target audience.

Appointment systems and client policies

Implement efficient appointment booking systems and consider digital solutions for better patient management. Develop clear client policies, including appointment cancellation policies, to set expectations for patients.

Here is what you can consider.

Appointments management:

  1. Electronic Health Record (EHR) Integration
  2. Automated appointment reminders
  3. Patient Portals
  4. Efficient Workflow Management
  5. Emergency Appointment Protocol

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Client policies:

  1. Appointment Cancellation Policy
  2. Payment Policies
  3. Confidentiality and Privacy
  4. Communication Channels
  5. Complaints and Feedback_
  6. Informed Consent Procedures

Staff management

If applicable, hire and manage support staff, such as receptionists and nurses, ensuring an efficient team.

If you plan to operate as a sole trader, you can proceed directly to the question of practice management software.

Set up the conditions for calculating employees’ income in the convenient payment scheme constructor of the Medesk platform.

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Technology integration

Stay updated on technological advancements in medical services and integrate relevant technologies into the practice for improved private patient care and management.

Modern practice management software automates all processes of managing a private clinic, including:

Thanks to powerful modules, even solo practitioners can control all aspects of private work. With PMS, you can reduce your expenses and avoid hiring additional administrative staff. A library of consultation templates will cut down on paperwork, making your workflow more efficient, while secure storage of data in electronic health records eliminates the need to keep paper documents and prevents data loss.

Evaluate the capabilities of modern software for your clinic with our free trial.

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Continuing Professional Development

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is crucial for the private sector after initiating a private practice. It is essential for maintaining and enhancing qualifications, delivering high-quality services to patients, establishing new connections, and staying ahead of innovations in primary care services.

One can enhance their qualifications through both free and paid methods, and the choice is subjective. A brief guide for GP work development will assist you in making informed decisions.

  1. Attend medical conferences, seminars, and workshops to stay informed about the latest research, medical technologies, and treatment modalities.

For example, the British Medical Association's (BMA) Annual Representative Meeting

  1. Engage in online learning platforms and webinars to access a variety of courses, lectures, and discussions on specific medical topics.

For example, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), BMJ Learning, NHS Education for Scotland (NES), GP Update, Doctor's Academy, and others.

  1. Regularly read medical journals, research articles, and publications to stay informed of new findings in your field.

For example, The British Medical Journal (BMJ), The Lancet, The British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (JRSM), etc.

  1. Pursue specialized training programmes or certifications in areas relevant to your practice.

For example, MRCGP (Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners), Certificate in Travel Health, Certificate in Child Health (CCH), etc.

  1. Establish mentorship relationships with experienced colleagues or participate in peer review activities.
  2. Engage in clinical audits within your practice to assess and improve the quality of patient care.
  3. Seek feedback from patients and reflect on your practice.
  4. Consider involvement in teaching or supervising medical students, residents, or junior healthcare professionals.
  5. Stay informed about changes in medical laws and ethical guidelines.
  6. Focus on maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Revalidation

Revalidation is a process that ensures private hospitals and GP partners meet the necessary professional standards and are fit to practice. The General Medical Council (GMC) oversees revalidation and sets standards for medical practitioners in the UK.

For GPs in private practice, regular appraisals are a key part of revalidation. During these assessments, GPs provide information to show they follow the Good Medical Practice framework set by the GMC. This framework covers essential areas like patient care, communication, and professionalism.

Though the details may differ slightly between NHS and private practices, the core principles of revalidation apply to all GPs in the UK. Private practice GPs actively take part in the revalidation process to maintain the highest standards of care and professionalism in their independent practices.

Despite the fact that the assessment occurs every five years and may seem like there is still time, we do not recommend neglecting the rules of its completion at the very early stages of developing your practice. Therefore, when the time for the assessment comes, you won't need to reorganize all processes and be nervous; you will be prepared in advance.

We hope that our guide has made your life easier, and now you have a plan of action without fear. We can support you at every stage of opening your clinic: visit our blog to learn how to shape your marketing strategy, explore the experiences of your colleagues through cases and reviews, and get to know the key features of our platform.

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