GP pay overhaul to tackle funding chaos within weeks

Changes to GP payments systems will be rolled out by the end of November following pressure from GPC leaders over continuing problems with the flow of funding to practices.

Funding: payments system reforms may help solve GP funding problems
Funding: payments system reforms may help solve GP funding problems

NHS England has confirmed that a new GP payments statement will be rolled out nationally within weeks - providing practices with a detailed breakdown of the payments they receive.

The move aims to address one of the major complaints from practices about payments since PCTs were phased out - that they were often unable to identify where payments originate, or what they were for.

Changes have been brought in by the GP payments working group, which brings together NHS England, the GPC, the health service business support body NHS Shared Business Services and other stakeholders.

As GP has reported, problems with delayed, missed and unidentifiable payments have plagued practices since the new system came into force in April, with some practices facing serious cash flow problems, overdraft fees and even court summons for unpaid bills.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said the working group was addressing a number of problem areas.

‘In particular it has improved the information which support payments to GPs by amending the GP statement to break down in detail payments being made by NHS England and by CCGs. This will allow practices to recognise the breakdown of payments, the lack of which has been the most significant complaint reported. This change has been piloted, and will be fully rolled out by the end of this month.’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey welcomed engagement by NHS England. ‘We hope that we are getting to the point with these improved statements where practices will get both better information and a more reliable service,' he said. ‘We will, though, continue to monitor the situation to ensure practices are not let down in the future.’

Earlier this month GP leaders warned that £40m cuts to family health services (FHS), which run GP payments and other back office services, could deepen the chaos.

NHS England confirmed the cuts could see the number of regional FHS offices slashed from 37 to 12 and savings of £40m targeted from a £100m overall budget.

Dr Vautrey said practices already facing regular payment problems would be 'very concerned this could get worse because of these planned cuts'.

He called on NHS England to improve the service urgently and 'explain to practices how it will guarantee a high quality and timely service following these cuts'.

Londonwide LMCs' medical director Dr Tony Grewal said he hoped the changes would solve the biggest payments problem facing practices.

'We strongly welcome a return to what GPs used to have, and have a right to expect; that payments are properly identified so they can audit their finances and ensure proper payments have been made.'

'The biggest problem is that the payments stream is fragmented on the back of the implementation of changes on April 1st. Payments are now made through NHS England, local authorities, and CCGS. And the authorisation for those payments has to come from different bodies, which is passed on to commissioning organisations, who authorise payment through EXETER or some other system, and eventually gets to the GP, often poorly badged.

'GPs are facing lumps of money turning up, but have no idea why they've got it, or which invoice it refers to.'   

Dr Grewal added that problems with missing and delayed payments seemed to have eased. 'I have not had anything like the number of reported concerns over the last month or so', he said. 'So I assume things are beginning to settle.' 

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