More than two thirds of GP partners fear financial loss due to COVID-19

Some 70% of GP partners in England fear their practice could be left out of pocket financially because of extra costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, a GPonline poll suggests.

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

The financial impact of COVID-19 also looks set to hit GP partner earnings this year, with 42% of partners saying that they expected to take reduced drawings as a direct result of the pandemic. Only 29% said that they thought their personal income would be unaffected, with the remaining 29% unsure.

Evidence that GP partners face losses during the pandemic comes after GPonline reported that some  locums have struggled to find work - suggesting that GPs across many roles could be affected financially by COVID-19.

Of 132 GP partners responding to the poll, 23% said they were 'very concerned' and 47% said they were 'slightly concerned' that their practice's finances would be impacted negatively by the pandemic, despite the fact that NHS England has said that additional costs will be covered.

Only 8% of partners said that they were not concerned that their practice would be left out of pocket, the remaining 22% were 'neutral' on the issue.

Practice income hit

GPs responding to the poll cited the loss of several income sources including minor surgery, vaccinations, private work and room rental as concerns, along with rising expenses including money spent on PPE and staff to cover sickness absence and opening on the bank holidays.

One GP said: 'We cannot claim for all the staff costs etc for the last bank holiday. We are now also being told we cannot claim for all the drugs and oxygen we ordered at the start as we are a "red site". We ordered the drugs recommended by the CCG!'

Another added: 'Income is gone in things like minor ops and reduced in things like vaccinations as people are just not coming despite our best efforts.'

Several GPs hit out at the uncertainty surrounding what they would be able to claim for. 'We have had to pay upfront to protect our patients/staff with no guarantees of reimbursement,' one said.

NHS England has previously said that any extra money practices have had to spend as a result of their response to the pandemic will be reimbursed. Last month it outlined the basic framework of the deal, revealing that practices will be able to claim for additional staff costs, consumables or business expenses, including PPE. 

Reimbursement of costs

However, final details of the funding package and how practice can claim are still waiting for sign off from the Treasury. The DHSC is only able to confirm that more information will come in due course.

NHS England has previously suggested that there will be a national tariff for reimbursement, as was the case for staff costs for bank holidays. Practices highlighted at the time that this was not enough cover the full costs of opening their surgery.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline: ‘I think we have to keep fighting for [funding]. The chancellor publicly stated they would do all that it takes and they need to follow that through. And in the scheme of the wider financial issues the government has had to face, this is a very small element, but it’s a really important element for general practice.

‘I think in some cases their CCGs are stepping forward and doing the right thing and providing funding themselves and hoping they will then get reimbursed through national funding arrangements. But we really need to see the proper support being put in place because, ultimately, it’s going to impact patient care if a practice isn’t able to do what it would want to do and particularly as workload is increasing again in practices as patients start to consult with their practice more and attend their surgeries more.'

This week the BMA also warned that practices could struggle to make the changes required to protect staff vulnerable to COVID-19 without access to the additional funding promised by the government.

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