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Wednesday 28 September 2016
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Another year-end over

Well, did you survive another year-end? Perhaps, more realistically, are you still dealing with it? It always amazes me that people think that once the clock strikes midnight on 31st March the work and the frenzy is over for another year, that somehow it just disappears, like Cinderella, back to wherever it came from in the first place! 

Being a bit longer in the tooth than most, I have been reminiscing about past year-ends, and how times have changed...

The PAYE return is a good example of this. I used to achieve this by sitting at the kitchen table every night for a couple of weeks. This was followed by the ceremony of writing out the P60s by hand. Spending money on PAYE software was one of the best investments my practice at the time ever made. That said, it took years for me to stop feeling that I had forgotten to do 'something'. I could never quite believe that I had done everything –and in just a few keystrokes.

Of course, it is also a quarter-end. All of the usual reconciling and balancing has to be done, and if the practice has a March year-end there will be the practice books to prepare for the accountant as well. Once more the marvels of technology have moved us on light years. Does anyone else remember heavy ledgers and calculators? I am probably referring back to the time of the last New Contract (1990), but two decades on I still bear emotional scars from trawling through ledger pages looking for that one error!

The next task used to be working out the pay award which was, strangely enough, one job I was always left in peace to get on with! Regrettably, in recent years many practices have been unable to make pay awards to staff, perhaps with the exception of those at the very lowest end of the salary scale. Staff working in practices where the partners have agreed to fund pay awards are very fortunate.

But not even Microsoft can sort everything. Did you get all of the appraisals finished in time? Did you do the things you said you would do in the objectives you set for the year? For you? For the practice? Or, if you are not at month twelve yet, are you on schedule? Have you made it to all of the usual monthly meetings? Maybe one or two have slipped to six weekly for the time being?

Note, I haven’t even mentioned QOF. Purposely! Why on earth would you want to read about something you have just finished eating, sleeping and breathing for the past few weeks?

All of the above does beg the obvious questions. Are practice managers mad, masochistic or do they just love what they do? Is it a mixture of all three? Can you think of another professional group that ties itself in quite so many knots to meet targets, to earn its keep and stay on this side of the law? Do you know of any other managerial group that would never dream of having a March break – that wonderful time of year when the weather (well, usually...) starts to get better and spring flowers are evident in clumps of glorious purple and yellow everywhere? All because of work?

But then again, how good is that smug feeling you get when you sit back in your chair, coffee in hand, and survey all of those neat but closed files and think “Done it! Again! I have survived!”

Enjoy that coffee – you deserve it!