GPs face £16,000 seniority clawback

Dr Peter Holden
Dr Peter Holden
The GPC has suggested potential overpayments of seniority pay to GPs should be written off, after accountants warned primary care organisations (PCOs) could seek to claw back more than £16,000 from some GPs.

The Association of Indep­endent Specialist Medical Acc­ountants (AISMA) has warned that large numbers of GPs have been overpaid for seniority since April 2004 because payments from PCOs have been based on educated guesses. All GPs with six or more years’ experience are entitled to some seniority pay.

GPs with six years’ experience received a £600 payment, which increases annually to a maximum of £13,900 for a GP with 47 years’ service.

Seniority pay for GPs who earn less than two thirds of the national average superannuable income is reduced by 40 per cent. GPs earning less than a third of average income receive no seniority payments.

But no national average superannuable income figures are available for 2004/5, 2005/6 or 2006/7, so accountants do not know where the cut-offs for the reductions lie.

Many GPs who should have received the lower level or no seniority pay are likely to have been overpaid, AISMA says.

GPs with overcautious PCOs could also receive a cash windfall, the association said.

Many GPs with reduced seniority payments are winding down to retirement while others who could be asked to pay back money are collecting their pensions. A 40 per cent clawback on the highest possible three years of seniority pay would be worth around £16,000.

AISMA member Elizabeth Lloyd, a partner at Colchester accountants Hubbard Lloyd said: ‘It is a frustrating situation and once it has been resolved it will cause problems for GPs.

‘The GMS contract specifies that it will be based on superannuation, but at the moment that has been frozen at pre-2004/5 levels which will have changed considerably. Some PCOs have just frozen payments and others have estimated the amount they should pay, so some GPs will get a nice windfall and others could have to pay back large sums of money.

‘Where PCTs have underpaid, they may pay money back to practices and we are concerned that some of our clients may never see it because they have retired.’

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said: ‘No one knows where the cut-off will be.’

Dr Holden said it was impossible to know the problem’s scale until accurate data on sup­­­er­annuable income were published.

A DoH spokeswoman said extra pay and clawbacks were
‘a natural part’ of the scheme.

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