Practices to receive funding for additional staff costs due to COVID-19, NHS England says

Practices will be able to claim funding for any additional staff needed to deal with an increase in workload due to the coronavirus pandemic, and to cover staff absence as a result of COVID-19, NHS England has said.

(Photo: Viktoria Rodriguez/Getty Images)
(Photo: Viktoria Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Support is expected to be available for costs incurred during March, April, May and June, after which the scheme will be reviewed.

During a webinar on Thursday evening (7 May), NHS England director of primary care strategy Ed Waller set out the principles for how GP practices will be able to claim reimbursement for additional expenses as a result of the pandemic, although he said the plans were still awaiting final sign off from the government.

Final guidance is expected to be provided shortly, but Mr Waller said that he expected that most of the additional funding NHS England would provide to practices would relate to reimbursement for staff.

Mr Waller said that, subject to government approval, the scheme would provide staff reimbursement for 'net additional capacity, where net workload of the practice has increased due to the outbreak - and there is a demonstrable need to bring in additional capacity to deliver services.'

He suggested this funding could be used for extra staff to help practices deliver the enhanced support NHS England has asked them to provide to care homes, any increase in workload around shielded patients as well as a surge in workload that practices may experience as the lockdown eases. Practices would be expected to seek approval in advance for reimbursement, Mr Waller added.

Staff reimbursement

'We know that activity in many practices has fallen slightly in the last few weeks due to the lockdown, and we expect that will change as we encourage people to come back to primary care for various reasons,' Mr Waller said.

'We also know that you're doing a lot of work in relation to shielded patients, and to care homes from the letter last week as well, so it's conceivable the practice will have a net increase in workload. Our proposals are not to attach money to individual parts of all of that, but to look at the net increase to the workload of practices and to reimburse where that's necessary.'

Reimbursement for staff absence cover would be available 'on the condition that practices are providing full sick pay for employees who are off sick with COVID-19 and providing full pay for staff who are shielding', Mr Waller said.

He added that NHS England was 'hoping to secure' reimbursement for staff cover 'from day one where GPs and practice staff are off sick with COVID-19' or suspected COVID-19 'if they couldn't work using remote solutions from home'.

Details of funding

Practices will also be reimbursed for additional consumables or business expenses, 'for example around PPE, or changing business models to do home visits', Mr Waller said.

Much of the funding that practices will be able to claim will be subject to national reimbursement rates. Mr Waller suggested that staff reimbursement would reflect the amounts that have previously been agreed for bank holiday opening.

Under those reimbursement plans, NHS England agreed to fund locum GPs up to a maximum of £250 a session or £500 per day and partners could claim £289 per session - both are below the average earned by a GP locum for a full day's work. Practices were told to pay salaried GPs and practice staff in line with their contractual arrangements for bank holiday opening.

Mr Waller said that NHS England would not reimburse practices for 'non-regulation PPE'. He said the whole funding scheme would be set up 'on the basis of the guidance that's been given to the system'.

'So in the case of PPE, the expectation is that we reimburse PPE expenses in line with what PHE is recommended,' he explained.

Core funding

The overall aim was to 'ensure that practices don't lose significant income as a result of the outbreak,' Mr Waller said.

'That means that we will be continuing to pay global some at the rate agreed in 2021, there will be arrangements for continuing to pay QOF, DSQS in dispensing practices, and then around some of the DESs.

'And we will also be giving more detailed advice to local commissioners, about how they should deal with local enhanced services incentive schemes... most of that funding should be maintained even if activity falls away.'

CCGs will be managing the claims process for practices and NHS England said it hoped to share full information on how practices could make claims after the package had been approved by the Treasury.

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