A Shropshire-based national buying consortium has had a record-breaking year as turnover for suppliers grew to in excess of £25 million.
Caradoc Medical Services now represents more than 2,000 GP surgeries nationwide and more than 50 per cent of the social enterprise Out of Hours organisations in the country.
Now with more than 25,000 companies as members across the whole of the UK including vets, dentists, schools, osteopaths, therapists and small businesses, bosses today said the company had big plans for development in 2016.
Peter Masters, Caradoc business manager, said last year had seen a number of new projects launched across the consortium.
Caracalls, a joint initiative with Caradoc approved supplier Fluid Network Solutions, launched earlier in the year and is set to greatly improve the experience of patients in Shropshire.
Caracalls was developed in response to GP surgeries highlighting that patients were struggling to make appointments.
The telephony service, over a voice-over IP network, links with out of hours medical service Shropdoc to allow assistance with appointment bookings and nurse triage. It also provides business continuity and disaster recovery services.
Peter Masters said the system kicked in should phone lines go down at a practice with calls re-routed to the Shropdoc call centre within seconds.
He said: “This ensures vital service continuity for patients. The recovery service has already been successfully used on two occasions when GP surgery lines went down, ensuring there was no inconvenience to patients trying to make appointments.
“It has proved a huge success. It ensures vital service continuity for patients, as well as providing a cost saving for surgeries by way of free on-net calls between other networked organisations”.
Caradoc also launched Caraprint, a new innovative scheme developed with another Caradoc-approved supplier, Practice Supplies, to reduce printing costs to GP surgeries and businesses across the country.
The scheme offers free printers with a package of printer consumables.
Julian Barnes, director of Practice Supplies, said: “We heavily subsidise the price of new printers with a bundle of toners and often the printer works out at nil or very low cost.
“The main benefits to surgeries are that we only supply the highest quality products, at highly competitive prices – we completely guarantee them to perform in line with an original, and add our own warranty to any device using our toners.
“Essentially in the unlikely event of a problem with our product we take full responsibility and replace or repair the toner/printer if necessary. It’s a full belt and braces package offering total peace of mind to customers.”
Mr Masters added: “Spend on printing is often one of the highest cost areas for organisations – it can be significantly reduced with the support of a good quality print technology partner.
“Another significant area of development for us in 2015 was the work done with Lockton, the world’s largest privately-owned independent insurance brokerage firm, to create an insurance agreement that will encourage more GPs to take up out of hours work by ensuring that they no longer have to pay ever increasing premiums on their own indemnity insurance.
“The move could help to relieve pressure on A&E departments, walk-in clinics and NHS 111/out of hours services.”
Caradoc works closely with Urgent Health UK, the federation of Social Enterprise Unscheduled Primary and Community Care Providers.
Mr Masters said: “It was clear that indemnity insurance was a big issue for GPs and out of hours work, and it was an obstacle that we felt needed action to overcome.
“We worked with global insurance brokers Lockton to create a scheme that involved the GPs costs being covered independently of medical defence organisations.”
The move comes after the Medical Defence Union saw a record number of new complaints against their doctors in 2014 alongside the usual clinical negligence claims.
Kevin Culliney, head of healthcare at Lockton, said: “GPs are facing escalated indemnity fees based on Government plans for seven-day access, and out of hours providers are struggling to fill shifts due to the hikes in the cost of the GP defence subscriptions to cover these out of hours shifts.
“Extra audits completed by Urgent Health UK organisations helped us to get a cost effective solution for Caradoc and Urgent Health UK members.
“A major out of hours provider has already taken up the scheme and GPs working for the provider will save hundreds of thousands of pounds through the deal.”
Mr Masters said: “Last year through various initiatives, discounts and money saving tips, we were delighted to be able to offer our members savings in the region of 10 to 15 per cent, which has proved invaluable for GP practices across the country.
“We are looking forward to continuing to find savings for our members in 2016 with further development of the insurance offer, as well as initiatives including the development of Caradoc wi-fi services at GP practices and digital dictation services.”
Established in May 2009, Caradoc Medical Services Ltd is the sister company of the not-for-profit, out of hours provider Shropshire Doctors Co-operative (ShropDoc).
Initially set up to negotiate better buying terms for ShropDoc, Caradoc has grown into a national buying consortium.
As a not-for-profit organisation, surplus is invested into a range of initiatives across health economies. The consortium is free to join, with no membership fees.