Most contracts include a provision that gives trusts the right to 'claw back' money that has been paid incorrectly to practices. But GPs say this can destabilise practices if used retrospectively to claim for money that has already been spent.
Laurence Slavin, a partner with Ramsay Brown and Partners, medical accountants pointed out that the new GMS contract is 'cash limited', meaning there are limits on the amount of funding PCTs have for general practice. As a result, PCTs have been 'forced to pull money back from wherever they can, and aren't engaging in any kind of dialogue'.
Mr Slavin said one London PCT has threatened to 'send in the debt collectors' to reclaim £10,000 that it incorrectly paid a single-handed practice in 2005/6.
Yet the PCT has refused requests for proof of its claim, and this month began unilaterally deducting the money from the practice's monthly pay. Larger practices have been told they owe as much as £60,000.
He said a second PCT, created following a merger, warned practices that it disagrees with its predecessors' way of calculating entitlements, and would be rechecking the figures.
GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said PCTs can claw back overpayments. But he added: 'If it was three years ago, it looks like trawling.'
He said practices faced with demands for money should seek legal advice. 'Whatever you do, don't just say "oh alright, here's the money".'
Andrew Lockhart-Mirams, senior partner of Lockharts solicitors, said he was aware of PCTs claiming back up to £40,000 from practices. He said practices may be able to reach a compromise with their PCT.
'If it's January they'll want to negotiate a deal before the financial year ends,' he said.
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