GPs face £8,000 clawback of seniority pay

Pay - Revised GP income estimate for 2004/6 means part-time GP partners have been overpaid thousands.

Hundreds of part-time GPs could find themselves facing demands they repay thousands of pounds in seniority pay that they earned as much as five years ago.

Last week the NHS Information Centre released revised estimates for average GP pay, showing that the profession earned more than it was thought between 2004 and 2006.

In 2004/5 the 'final seniority figure' - which is used to calculate seniority entitlement - was £81,000, not £75,000 as previously thought. It increased its 2005/6 figures from £81,000 to £91,000.

Bob Senior, an accountant with Tenon and Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants' vice chairman, said that the increase in the figures would mean that 'there could be some GPs who'd thought they were entitled to their full seniority, and it now turns out that they weren't'.

To receive their full seniority pay, a GP has to earn more than two-thirds of the final seniority. Those who earn between one-third and two-thirds are entitled to just 60 per cent of their seniority.

NHS Employers said that, as a result of the changes, 'some PCTs may need to recover overpayments from some practices'.

Connecting for Health is finalising an application to help PCTs identify where overpayments apply and the amount of money involved.

Mr Senior speculated the clawbacks could hit up to 10 per cent of GPs.

Those most likely to be affected will be part-time partners, whose income is less than two-thirds of the recalculated averages. They would have to repay 40 per cent of their seniority pay for those two years, which could amount to as much as £8,000.

PCTs will likely attempt to recoup the money directly from practices, leaving it to them to reclaim overpayments from the affected partners.

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