Exclusive: PCOs threaten GP swine flu pay protection

Half of GPs could lose thousands of pounds because primary care organisations (PCOs) have failed to promote 'buddying up' between practices in preparation for a second wave of swine flu.

Sir Liam Donaldson
Sir Liam Donaldson

Only 49% of practices have buddied up with another practice, a GP poll of 216 UK GPs reveals.

But failure to buddy up could mean practices miss out on income protection if the QOF - which generates around a third of GP income - is suspended.

Practices will also miss out on funding to cover the cost of working with another practice.

The DoH said last month that practices in England that buddy up will be paid £1,250 per week per 1,000 patients if they are forced to share resources and staff in a pandemic.

BMA guidance, meanwhile, says that ‘failure to buddy-up with other practices is likely to be viewed as a failure to comply with the terms of the "Costing methodology for GMS practice payments during an influenza pandemic" deal between the BMA and NHS Employers'.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the CMO for England, has predicted that a second, more serious wave of swine flu is likely to hit the UK this autumn in the traditional flu season, which could force the QOF to be suspended.

Ian Dalton, England's director of NHS flu resilience, told GP that it was not too late for practices to buddy-up and called on the NHS to offer practices more support.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey agreed that practices need greater assistance to buddy up.

Dr John Canning, secretary of Cleveland LMC, which piloted the buddying up system, said: ‘Buddying up is one means whereby practices can protect themselves both financially and professionally during a pandemic.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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