The majority of GPs – 79% – expect the financial pressures facing practices to increase over the next five years, a survey has found.
Three quarters are expecting profits to stagnate or fall in the next 12 months.
The 2022 Lloyds Bank Healthcare Confidence Index, which surveyed 110 GPs, found that their overall confidence has dropped significantly this year, with the profession’s short-term outlook falling 17 points, from +3 in 2021 to -14, and long-term outlook from -45 to -56.
Those expecting profits to increase dropped by more than a third (37%) compared with 2021, with the key challenges being energy prices, inflation and tax.
The negative outlook was also expressed in HR-related issues, as more than half (56%) of GPs said their practices would be seeking new full-time partners over the next five years due to retirements. However, 69% of GPs said they never want to be a partner. A quarter (26%) say the risk of financial loss puts them off being a partner.
Pessimism was seen around patient care as well, as only 12% of GPs said they expect NHS services to improve over the next five years, but 62% predicted they will get worse.
Martyn Kendrick, head of healthcare banking services at Lloyds Bank, said: ‘The results of this year’s Index show how healthcare providers are facing up to growing financial pressures from rising energy prices, interest rates and inflation, which are squeezing budgets like never before.’
He said that extending the New to Partnership funding incentive, which gives a £23,000 ‘golden hello’ type-payment to new GP partners but is due to end in March 2023, could ‘help with succession planning’, and called for a ‘tweaking’ of the lifetime allowance on pension savings to prevent GPs from retiring early to avoid big tax bills.
Jenny Hurst, healthcare partner at accountants BHP, added: ‘The Lifetime Allowance on pension savings is prompting some longstanding and highly experienced GPs to reduce their hours or leave the profession altogether in order to avoid a big tax bill. The Government has promised to look at this policy again, which could help reduce the pressure on GPs.’