To work in the NHS, doctors must first apply to join the national performers list by sending relevant documentation to Primary Care Support England (PCSE) - the support service run by Capita.
The application process should take no longer than 12 weeks from start to finish. But where applications are delayed - leaving doctors unable to work or earn income - doctors may be unable to obtain compensation unless they are denied work for more than 16 weeks.
In response to a Freedom of Information request from the BMA, NHS England confirmed that settlements would be offered on a ‘goodwill basis’ and only in ‘exceptional cases' - defined as instances in which an application to the performers list was delayed by more than 16 weeks through no fault of the individual GP.
This effectively means a GP could be out of work for four months before being able to claim reimbursement for lost earnings, the BMA has warned. NHS England has received 489 requests for compensation due to delayed applications since April 2017, the BMA said. It is not known what proportion of these related to cases in which there had been a 16-week delay or longer - and the BMA believes many more doctors may have been unaware that they could apply for compensation.
BMA GP committee premises and practice finance policy lead Dr Ian Hume said: 'Imagine not being allowed to do your job – despite being professionally qualified and positions being available – because of an admin error. Now imagine being told to sit on your hands for four months, without work, before your case is deemed "exceptional" enough to even consider compensating you for lost earnings.
‘Four months is an excruciatingly long time to wait without wages in any profession. Doctors affected by these delays will have mortgages to pay, households to support and in many cases families to feed. Any delay in wages being paid is unacceptable but 16 weeks is appalling.’
The BMA highlighted that, although the number of compensation requests is relatively low, this is not necessarily reflective of the scale of the problem, as many GPs won’t have known it was possible to make a claim.
Since being outsourced to Capita in 2015, PCSE services have been plagued with problems including the administration of GP payments and pensions and the transfer of patient records between practices.
Indeed, a poll conducted by GPonline at the start of the year revealed that 89% of GP partners reported problems with Capita-run primary care support in the space of one year.
Addressing these issues, Dr Hume added: ‘We are in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis in general practice, and here we have a case of GPs who are qualified and who want to work, but are unable to because of the incompetent management of an administrative system by a private sector company.
After two years of chaos, Capita has showed once again that it is not able to deliver this system, and we call on NHS England to urgently provide solutions to the litany of problems GPs and practice teams are still facing.’
A Capita spokesperson said earlier this year: 'We are committed to transforming locally-managed operations into a modern and efficient service for NHS England and all primary care organisations.’