Managing your people’s pay

Having effective back-office functions in place can help reduce the stress of running a busy practice – and there are, arguably, none more important than payroll. We look at the some of the specialist GP payroll solutions on the market that can make the process pretty pain-free – handling everything from NHS pension requirements to contractual and statutory maternity pay

Running a payroll system involves recording the details of employees, calculating pay and deductions, ensuring essential contributions to NI and the NHS pension scheme are made and supporting absences through sickness or pregnancy. It’s a complex and time-consuming process, and one which can be a challenge for a busy practice manager.

Many practices choose to use software that simplifies the process as much as possible, interacting with HMRC systems for tax and national insurance, and the NHS pension scheme for retirement contributions.

If you’re considering purchasing, or upgrading, your payroll software start by looking at the HMRC website; there you will find comprehensive information on the data you need to collect, what they expect of you as a payroll manager and the sort of software you might need.

Standard, off-the-shelf payroll software packages may not have the functionality that you need, which is why most practices choose to use specialist providers. So, what are some of the most popular payroll providers on the market?


One of the UK’s most established names, IRIS claims to supply payroll software to 54% of GP practices. Tested in practices for 38 years, this purpose-built software can handle NHS pension contributions, Whitley Council/Agenda for Change contractual maternity pay and SMP. The software offers oversight of the entire process – but it will be your responsibility to maintain and update it.

GP Payroll

Dr Arun Aggarwal, of the Rainbow Surgery in Ramsey, describes GP Payroll as, “A more GP-orientated service than that provided by any accountant’s comparable service.” GP Payroll is a digital-only service; however, for an additional £5 per employee, they will send out a physical payslip too, for added peace of mind. “I no longer need to build and fill budget tracking spreadsheets,” Dr Aggarwal says, “beats doing it yourself.”

Smart GP Payroll

Smart GP Payroll wants to ‘…make our clients’ lives easier by providing a stress-free, cloud- based, cost-effective payroll solution that saves everyone time and money.’ The solution is the cheapest specialist payroll software package we have seen, at just £350 per year. Launched in 2013, founder Howard Livsey spent two years in general practice, working in payroll, finance and on reception learning the ropes and refining the software.


If you don’t want any of the hassle, you can choose to pay a payroll provider to do it all for you – but it can be expensive. Quill is an outsourcing provider that claims to be able to manage your entire payroll requirement. Offering you a, ‘designated point of contact’ Quill says that outsourcing can remove the burden of payroll from the practice manager and makes a familiar service offer – tailored for the NHS – but it’s up to you if you want to hand over the responsibility of payroll to someone outside your practice.

 Avoid embarrassing errors

Whether you run payroll yourself, or outsource it, it’s up to you to get it right. Missed wages can upset staff, and missing pension or NI contributions can affect futures. Mistakes can be costly too, with HMRC fining organisations which submit partial, incomplete or incorrect forms, or those who don’t submit essential data on time. Penalties are modest, but accurate record keeping remains important.

If you become aware of a submission error, you’re duty-bound to report it to HMRC. In most cases, they will correct the information and there will be no penalty – but if you’re careless, or submit misleading information, you could be hit with a damaging fine.

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