GP practices in Kent will have their enhanced services funding protected by commissioners until October in a bid to prevent coronavirus from ‘destabilising’ them, our sister publication, Pulse, has learned.
It comes as the long-touted GP Covid support fund still has not been approved, despite being announced in April.
Kent LMC medical secretary Dr John Allingham told Pulse that enhanced services such as phlebotomy and suture removals will now be paid at 100% of historic levels until October for practices in Kent – extending a deal originally made in March for a further three months.
The deal covers a ‘mixture’ of DESs and LESs, which practices have ‘hardly’ been able to deliver due to coronavirus, he added.
He said: ‘While Covid was in its ascendancy, very few of those services were delivered.
‘So there was an agreement that in order to avoid destabilising practices, the practices would continue to be funded for those services at their historic levels.’
The LMC has been ‘agitating’ for continued financial protection for local practices’ cash flow while ‘normal activity’ is still impossible due to the need for infection control measures, Dr Allingham told Pulse.
He said: ‘As we start seeing [more patients] face-to-face, our costs for consultations are going up because everything has to be done slower now.’
For example, phlebotomy is paid by item of service in Kent and while a ‘really efficient’ healthcare assistant might normally see 12 patients in an hour, having to clean the room in between each may mean they only manage four to six, Dr Allingham said.
Similar arrangements should be put in place across the country to preserve practice income, he added.
He said: ‘If you look at how the finances would flow into practices if they forced us to work for all of our usual payment routes, our QOF and all our enhanced services would have gone out of the window.
‘But our expenses would go up because we have staff who can’t work because they’re shielding or ill and so you are paying overtime payments potentially. You’ve still got to run the practice [and] deliver the normal services, so people were still working and bills were still being paid.’
However, while the local funding agreement is welcome, it ‘doesn’t deal with the Covid expense’, Dr Allingham added.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told Pulse that details of the GP Covid support fund would be confirmed in due course.
In April, NHS Kent and Medway CCG gave practices a cash boost worth £1 per patient to help cover the extra costs of managing the Covid-19 pandemic response.
It followed uncertainty over cash flow as details on the promised GP Covid Support Fund – which GPs were told would reimburse them for costs relating to Covid-19 – remained scant.
Last month, Pulse revealed that the Treasury may not approve the fund unless NHS England can prove that coronavirus has caused practices additional costs.
It comes as the BMA remains ‘in discussions’ around the protection of QOF payments for the rest of this year.