PracticeAccounting FirmsThe Debate: A new practice panel?

The Debate: A new practice panel?

The ICAEW is proposing a new practice panel, but is it needed? 'Yes', says John Malthouse, while Richard Harwood claims its job is already being done.

Stand up and be countedBy John Malthouse

The ICAEW general practitioner panel is proposing a new practice society. There’s a good reason for it.

It’s because realisation has dawned that general practice firms really are side lined at the institute. It’s been that way for a number of years.

And we need to do something about it. There is a lot that’s affecting general practice firms at present and it’s time we spoke up with some weight and authority, alongside the big firms.

But it’s not simply about representation and carrying a torch for these practices. We want the emphasis of the new society to be on active support. We think that people like us need it.

So in return for a very modest annual sum it’s proposed that members will get (free) a whole raft of benefits including help lines on tax, employment issues and so on. Also advice and proper support when things go wrong on regulatory issues, and free membership of special interest groups. We think our members will need support and representation (if it comes to it) on an individual basis on all aspects of practice assurance.

Rightly or wrongly, this is the latest nightmare that’s come to haunt us.

There will be other paid for services. For example it’s time that someone sorted out the alternates problem once and for all. We also plan to set up a web-based staff and vacancies register and negotiate special relationships for our members. Practitioners need all this (and a lot more) and they need it supplied and quality controlled by people like them. But most of all there’s a need for a two-way dialogue with our members so that the society chairman can stand up in council and say truly that he speaks on behalf of general practitioners and has a proper mandate.

So you can see there’s a lot to be done – and this is just a start. As a general practitioner I want someone of authority and influence fighting my corner at Moorgate Place, and quite honestly, not taking ‘no’ for an answer. A practice society would give us the combined effectiveness that we need.

  • John Malthouse is a general practitioner

Duplication of effortsBy Richard Harwood

I have served on the ICAEW council for ten years and after the first few faculties were formed and found to be successful, I urged that a general practice faculty be set up.

About three years ago the then ICAEW president asked me to head a working group to look into the feasibility of such a faculty. We produced a prospectus of the services and other activities that the faculty would provide together with the likely costs.

We then went out to consult with general practitioners. To my great disappointment the overwhelming answer was that we were too late – general practitioners were obtaining what they wanted elsewhere and not looking to ICAEW for these services.

It seems to me that the proposed practice society is a GP faculty by another name. The list of possible services is very similar to those from a few years ago. Why should our members’ views have changed?

I am a sole practitioner with a very general practice in Sutton Coldfield and recognise the needs of general practitioners. Many of the possible services are already being provided by the general practitioners panel – are we not going to add to the confusion that already exists amongst members with faculties, focus groups, panels and now a society?

The general practitioners panel does sterling work and truly represents the views of general practitioners in council and throughout the ICAEW.

It has become the recognised conduit and has even set up its own specialist groups.

Any additional services needed by general practitioners can be provided through the panel which itself is part of the practitioner member focus – why add another layer. I am wholly in favour of providing additional support and services for practitioners but consider we already have the structures in place to provide this – where will it all end – should we have ‘an industry society’? ‘An insolvency society’? ‘An academic society’?

Council has agreed that the idea of a practice society goes out to consultation – I await the results with interest, but remain to be convinced that it would not be better to make the general practitioner panel the real focus for practitioners.

  • Richard Harwood is a sole practitioner.

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