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11 January 2019

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How can my practice save money on printing and postage costs?

 Angela Sharda asks our panel how practice managers can work with GP partners to make savings in your practice.

Tracy Dell, practice manager, Plane Trees Group Practice, Halifax

Printing and postage costs can be quite significant in practices. Printers are provided by CCGs however we have very little say in which make and model we are given.

Some stationery companies offer loyalty points on purchases depending on the amount spent on each order.

Paper is also a cost when printing so it is advisable to set all printers (except prescriptions ones) to the duplex setting so it does it back to back. 

Printers can be networked to reduce the ‘convenience’ of automatically printing things out when, for example, documents can be saved electronically and viewed, emailed or uploaded instead. 

Print solutions – copiers, toners and drums provided for a set monthly price may be an option for some practices. However companies tend to want to tie you in to long agreements, often three to five years and most PMs (if you’re anything like me) like to review contracts or every two years to ensure we are getting a good deal.

The need to post letters can be reduced significantly by the use of email, text and telephone. Traditional costs include  – paper, printing, envelope and stamps plus staff time to process – roughly £1.25 per second class letter.

Electronic mailing options are by far the best solution, saving time and money.

Letters can be sent from any workstation via the print option. A print driver is installed and individual as well as bulk letters can be sent.

Training is provided so this lessens the burden on managers. Admin rights can be set for senior staff to audit, monitor and assess activity. It works on a direct debit or prepay system where the account is topped up as often as required.

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A quarterly newsletter is sent to the practice outlining savings in time and money. Our practice has 8,600 patients and saves approximately £2,000 and 85 hours per year.

Practices can also work together to create buying power for additional discounts. Our 11 practices did this and made many more savings.

Kay Keane, business manager, Alvanley Practice, Stockport

The biggest money saver for us has been using the AccuRx software which links in with our clinical system (EMIS) and allows us to send text messages directly to our patients.

This means that rather than one of our clinicians giving reception a task when they want to contact a patient, they send the text message directly to the patient with the details. 

An example of this has been, rather than the receptionist asking the patient to continue with their course of iron tablets, the clinician can type the message directly to the patient. 

Our reception team also use the system tell patients to pick up their choose and book letters.

This method has saved us a great deal of money and time.  In postage costs alone we have saved over £1,000 since we began using it, and we had already worked hard to cut those costs.

Joe Hawes, chartered financial planner at Carter Backer Winter

There are certain changes that can be made and I would advise the following for practice managers to implement the following in practices’.

Here are my top tips:  

  • Look at other means of communication such as email and this applies both internally and externally.
  • Is there an internal portal or intranet where memos, processes and procedures and more general information can be published, reducing the temptation to print emails and providing a central resource for this type of information?
  • Are you using old/unreliable hardware? An obsolete printer or photocopier might be costing you more than a newer alternative in expensive ink or wasted time due to paper jams or breakdowns. Look at how much you are spending repeatedly fixing an old machine, is it more than you would spend buying or leasing a new one? You might find that a service contract for the supply and maintenance of your hardware could be a cost saving in the long-run, particularly if the machines are replaced regularly under leasing arrangements to more efficient and reliable models.
  • Modern hardware may also allow you to control who can print, for instance with passcode access. This also provides an audit trail of how much, how often, and what it is that people are printing. In turn, this may provide an opportunity to ‘re-educate’ the practice in general, or maybe just the worst offenders.
  • Remove local printers. Clearly, this may not be viable in consultancy rooms, but doing so elsewhere provides an ‘incentive’ to stop unnecessary printing. You might be surprised how much of a disincentive to printing it is to have to walk across the room and/or input a password.
  • Trying to get the best deals for your paper, envelopes, inks and other stationary is an important task. Further savings might be made by joining forces with other local GP Practices or NHS providers to see if a better deal can be found by forming a larger buying group.