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Around 1,500 GP practices to reimburse NHS England for seniority payments

by Rima Evans and Anna Colivicchi
24 April 2024

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Around 1,500 GP practices will see a pay deduction in June as NHS England seeks to reclaim millions of pounds of seniority payments.

The adjustment is being made as the commissioner has been undertaking a reconciliation exercise’ for seniority payments to claim back £28m it has ‘overpaid’ GPs over the years.

Affected practices were first notified about this via Primary Support Care England (PCSE) last Autumn, with some surgeries potentially being asked to repay thousands of pounds, and others entitled to money back.

The BMA has warned that the final sums of money involved to ‘balance practice payments’ may be different to the figure practices were sent last year.

It said around 1,500 practices will see money be deducted in the June contract payment run, and just under 1,000 will receive a positive adjustment.

The union explained that the reconciliation process had been delayed ‘because of the need for a further validation exercise’ but that this had now been completed for ‘all but a very small number of practices’ for payments relating to the financial years 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20.

PCSE is making special arrangements for practices that believe a one-off financial deduction in June would mean it is ‘at risk of financial hardship’, an update sent last week from GPC England (GPCE) deputy chair Dr Julius Parker said.

Practices in this situation were asked to request a payment plan be set up by PCSE so deductions could be spread across the remaining 10 months of the financial year (June 2024 to March 2025).

The payment plan will be forwarded to ICBs and practices contacted if their ICB considers such a repayment plan is unnecessary.

Dr Parker added: ‘However, it is difficult to understand any ICB drawing this conclusion. LMCs are recommended to advise ICBs that if they have any queries about an individual practice’s repayment plans they should urgently contact the practice and their LMC. PCSE has also confirmed it will not make a June deduction if a dispute has been raised.’

Since this process spans a long period of time, adjustments may relate to GP partners who have now retired, left the practice, or are deceased, or to practices that have now closed or merged, which the BMA warned could complicate matters.

GPCE also said it does not believe current practices that have closed, and whose patients dispensed to re-register elsewhere, will be contacted. Some practices will have planned ahead for the payments and made arrangements within partnership agreements or in a merger agreement, Dr Parker said.

However, it has recommended that practice accountants are first informed of the information received from PCSE.

Dr Parker added: ‘Obviously, past partners can be contacted, but this needs to be a value-for-money exercise as some adjustments (whether positive or negative) are small, in absolute terms, and may not justify a complicated accountancy exercise.

‘Current partners can certainly inform previous partners (including partners of a then different practice if a merger has occurred) of the information they have received from PCSE.

‘If a partner has died, then this may be a more sensitive exercise in terms of contracting the beneficiaries of their estate. If this isn’t possible, PCSE should be informed.’

The ‘reconciliation exercise’ won’t be fully concluded until repayments have also been calculated for the financial years of 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 and 2016/17. Although any adjustments related to these years ‘are likely to be smaller in absolute terms’ and there is currently no date set for that, Dr Parker said.

The union also said that NHS England recognised that there may be ‘some scepticism’ about figures that have been revised since last year.

‘This is a complicated exercise as the total figure sent to practices is an aggregate one, covering all partners at the practice entitled to receive seniority payments during the three years involved, and this may include both positive and negative adjustments,’ Dr Parker said.

Practices can request further information from PCSE here.

Seniority payments were made to principal GPs in recognition of their years of NHS reckonable service.  The scheme closed to new applicants on the 1 April, 2014 and the last payments were made at the end of March 2020.