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Like all commercial enterprises, GPs must adapt to rising costs

It is interesting to note that the GP Fee Survey 2013 used the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 1996 and 2013 to conclude that the rise in clinic operating cost (6.9 per cent) has outpaced health inflation (2.97 per cent) (Help GPs deal with rising clinic operating costs, Dr Andrew Tay; July 14).

If the period between 2006 and 2013 (outlined in the same GP Fee Survey) is considered instead, the opposite conclusion is reached, as the CAGR rise in clinic operating cost (3.08 per cent) is lower than health inflation (3.56 per cent).

It is clear that the period of comparison is significant and should have been highlighted.

If one reads between the lines of Dr Tay's letter, it appears that his concern is less about cost and more about profitability.

Cost increases are not unique to the medical industry. All enterprises face rising costs and are forced to find innovative ways to increase productivity and remain viable.

The private healthcare industry needs to realise that it operates in a competitive environment that is traditionally without price controls or subsidies. Also, general practitioner (GP) clinics are commercial enterprises. To come hat in hand asking for support is not proper.

It was also reported recently that GPs are working fewer hours (GPs working fewer hours, but seeing more patients: Poll; July 11). If high cost leading to lower profit is a concern, then GPs should consider working longer hours instead of seeking external support to manage costs.

GPs who are unable to adapt to the changing business environment are free to leave the private sector. I am sure their services would be welcome in the public sector.

D. Kumar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'Like all commercial enterprises, GPs must adapt to rising costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe