National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse said locum GPs risked missing the existing 10-week pension contribution deadline during the COVID-19 outbreak because practices are struggling to pay them on time amid workforce and workload challenges.
However, the NASGP has confirmed that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has agreed to relax the 10-week limit to submit forms during the pandemic, giving practices and locums extra time to process pension payments - although full details are yet to be revealed.
Although the change will ease pressure on locums around pensions, Dr Fieldhouse warned that delayed payments could leave them struggling with cashflow.
Dr Fieldhouse warned that whatever extension to the 10-week limit is agreed should give locums at least an extra month to submit forms. He said a significant extension would give them ‘one less thing to worry about’.
An extended time limit had been vital, he said, because with considerable staff shortages in primary care as doctors and other staff continue to self-isolate in large numbers, surgeries were struggling to pay locums on time.
‘A couple of weeks ago the NASGP wrote to NHS Pensions because we foresaw that this would be a problem and we asked them if they could relax these rules,' he said.
‘This was because practices are going to be paying people late, or locums are going to be so busy that they won't have time to do it. There's just too much to do at the moment and practices are really, really busy, they are overstretched, practice managers are going off ill because of stress and getting COVID-19.
‘So the DWP has agreed to relax the rules around the 10A form but it is still to give us more details, for example, how long they're going to extend it by… but locums won't have to be restricted to the 10-week period,' he added.
‘Obviously practices might have some cashflow problems as well. So it's just to add some extra capacity to give the system a bit more slack, just one less thing to worry about. It's to stop a problem happening - we're being proactive here rather than reactive,’ he added.
GPonline reported earlier this week that the BMA was working with NHS England on a deal to secure death-in-service rights for locums during the pandemic.
The deal could see locums employed on zero hours contracts under a single national agreement.
The move comes after surveys conducted by the NASGP and the Doctors Association UK (DAUK) found that locum GPs were making themselves less available for sessions during the pandemic.