The interim figure used to calculate seniority payments for GPs in England in 2015/16 was £95,001. But the final figure published this month by NHS Digital is £91,790 - meaning that hundreds of GPs could be eligible for additional seniority pay for that financial year.
Seniority pay for GPs is in the process of being phased out, with the money shifting into core practice funding gradually over recent years - and the mechanism will stop completely from April 2020.
But until next year, GPs with at least eight years of 'reckonable service' in the NHS are entitled to seniority pay, receiving the payment in full if their pensionable earnings are worth two thirds or more of the final seniority figure for each year - or an abated 60% payment if their earnings are between a third and two thirds of the seniority figure.
In 2015/16, 8.4% of the GP workforce reported earnings between £60,000 and £70,000. Based on the interim seniority figure, GPs had to earn £63,334 or more to qualify for the full seniority payment in that financial year.
But under the final figure, the threshold falls to £61,193, meaning that hundreds more GPs could qualify for the full payment rather than the abated amount. For a GP with 25 years of reckonable service in 2015/16, this could mean more than £2,500 in additional payments.
Many of the 2% of GPs who earned between £30,000 and £40,000 in 2015/16 could be in line for an even larger windfall. Based on the interim figure, GPs had to earn £31,667 or more to qualify for 60% of the seniority payment - but under the adjusted figure this falls to £30,597. A GP with 25 years' reckonable service in 2015/16 who earned between these two amounts could now qualify for £3,941 in seniority pay.
Deborah Wood, vice chair of the Association of Specialist Medical Accountants and a partner at accountants MHA Moore and Smalley said: 'Now that the final factor for 2015/16 has been announced at £91,790, this means that there will be some GPs who earned between £61,193 and £63,334 who should be entitled to an additional seniority payment uplifting them from the 60% abated figure to their full entitlement. And for GPs who earned between £30,597 and £31,667 they should receive an additional payment, being their 60% abated seniority.'
Laurence Slavin, a specialist medical accountant and partner at Ramsay Brown said: 'This is good news, the difference it makes would be around 40% of the value of the GP's seniority. Assuming an average seniority of say £3,000 that would make an average of £1,200 and as much as £2,800. It's hard to say how many GPs are affected, but it could be significant.'
Figures published by NHS Digital show that the average seniority payment for 2015/16 in England was £5,033. The final seniority figure for Wales has also fallen compared with the interim figure, from £86,926 to £84,542.