A letter setting out details of the long-awaited COVID-19 fund, sent on 4 August, said that practices have a six-week window to claim for additional expenses they have incurred as a result of the pandemic. However the letter said that the DHSC would be providing funding to cover practices' PPE costs and further details on this would be made available later.
NHS England confirmed that practices will need to submit claims to their CCG for reimbursement. Practices will be covered for staff absences for COVID-19 related reasons from 23 March to 31 July 2020. It stressed that the usual contractual and legal position will apply from 1 August.
Practices will be able to claim a maximum of £289 per 4-hour session for GP partners and funding for salaried GPs and other staff in line with their contractual arrangements as paid in February.
They will also be able to claim £200 a session for locum GPs, or £250 a session for out-of-hours work, including bank holidays. These amounts reflect what was agreed for bank holiday opening in May.
Practices can also claim for the additional costs incurred in delivering additional services to care homes, which will be covered from 1 May to 30 September 2020. The PCN service specification for care homes comes into effect on 1 October, under which networks will receive funding for enhanced support for care homes.
However, the guidance said it did not expect all practices would need to seek additional funding for this work because they should have been able to 'deploy flexibly' and use 'existing practice resources to support the delivery of this service'.
The letter also confirmed that practices would be recompensed for other COVID-19 related consumables between 1 March and 31 July. 'Reimbursement may also be sought for other net additional costs incurred as a result of COVID-19 requirements, including the costs of minor physical adjustments to buildings (eg Perspex screens and barriers), additional cleaning materials, and additional clinical equipment (eg pulse oximeters and thermometers),' the letter said.
However, NHS England warned that any claims that practices had already received payment for and which fell outside the guidance would have to be repaid.
It said: ‘Commissioners may require an appropriate portion of claims to be repaid – or set off against practice global sum or such other monies due under the GP contract – if funding was outside the terms of this guidance.
‘Commissioners should consider any exceptional circumstances in making these judgements. In accessing support, practices agree to this process.'
NHS England first outlined the principles of the COVID-19 support fund in May. However, it has been waiting for Treasury approval since then. GPs have expressed their frustrations at the delay, with GP leaders warning practices were facing ‘severe financial difficulty’ because of the lack of financial support.