Final details of the funding that practices will receive for additional costs they have incurred during the pandemic is currently waiting for approval from the Treasury.
During a webinar last Thursday (7 May), NHS England director of primary care contracts Ed Waller said that he expected that practices would ‘be reimbursed for additional consumables or business expenses, 'for example around PPE, or changing business models to do home visits'.
However he 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.
GPs have experienced ongoing problems with securing PPE. Results from the BMA’s latest tracker survey published last week found that more than two thirds of GPs have had to rely on PPE that they have bought themselves or had donated during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Around one in six GPs (16%) said that they 'rarely' or 'never' had sufficient PPE for safe contact with patients - and only 31% said that they always had the right equipment available.
PHE currently recommends the use of gloves, fluid-repellant face masks, aprons and eye protection for staff working in primary care.
However many practices have provided staff with additional equipment such as face shields and scrubs, particularly for those working in so-called 'hot sites'.
Some practices are also looking to install screens at reception desks as more patients start returning to surgeries as a way of providing additional protection for staff. It is unclear if NHS England would fund such modifications.
During Thursday’s webinar Mr Waller stressed the final details of reimbursement for practices had yet to be approved by the government. However he set out the principles of the planned scheme to provide additional funding for practices.
He said he expected practices would 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, as well as for items like PPE.
Support is expected to be available for costs incurred during March, April, May and June, after which the scheme will be reviewed.
Mr Waller said that the intention was to 'ensure that practices don't lose significant income as a result of the outbreak.’