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The waiting game

Practices will not be reimbursed for locum cover from day one if GPs self-isolate

EXCLUSIVE The Government will not reimburse practices for locum cover from day one for GPs who self-isolate due to coronavirus exposure, Pulse has learned.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the Government will make statutory sick pay available from day one - as opposed to day four, as the current rules dictate - for those who are self-isolating because of coronavirus (Covid-19) as part of emergency legislation.

However, NHS England currently only reimburses practices for sickness cover after a GP partner or salaried GP has been off work for more than two weeks.

Practices are unable to claim reimbursement for the first two continuous weeks of absence for each period of sickness leave - and afterwards can claim up to a maximum of £1,751.52 per week for the following 26 weeks (weeks 3 to 28) and then a maximum of £875.76 per week for the following 26 weeks (weeks 29 to 54).

A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) told Pulse that payments will continue on this basis.

They added that it is the GP practice's responsibility as an employer to provide sick pay for its employees, including its partners.

Those with symptoms of either a high temperature or a new continuous cough should self-isolate at home for seven days if they live alone, or 14 days if they live with others, according to the latest guidance.

This means that any GPs self-isolating under this guidance will not be reimbursed for locum cover during this period. 

The DWP added: ‘There is a range of support in place for those who do not receive statutory sick pay, including Universal Credit and contributory Employment and Support Allowance.’

Manchester GP partner Dr Lucy Aczel branded the Government's refusal to refund self-isolating GPs' sessions as 'ridiculous' and called for the policy to be reviewed 'as a matter of urgency'.

She said: '[Chancellor] Rishi Sunak has promised that the NHS will get “whatever it needs” and “the cost of a business having to have someone off work for up to fourteen days will be refunded”. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to GPs.

'It is ridiculous that the sessions for the those of us on the front line, and likely to come in contact with coronavirus, will not be refunded if we are self-isolating. In order to prevent a rapid decline in GP numbers at this time of crisis, I would ask NHS England to review their policy as a matter of urgency.' 

BMA GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'The BMA is liaising with NHS England about a whole host of elements in general practice that might have to change given the current situation with Covid-19, including reimbursement for sickness cover to come in immediately for surgeries rather than after two weeks.'

Announcing the temporary statutory sick pay measure - which does not apply to GPs - Mr Johnson said that ‘no one should be penalised for doing the right thing’.

The upcoming Covid-19 emergency bill will also ‘look at ensuring that any retired staff who return to work in the NHS will not have their pensions negatively impacted’, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

It added that the bill will also provide ‘employment safeguards’ that protect the jobs of ‘skilled, experienced or qualified’ volunteers who support the health and social care system for up to four weeks.

It comes as the Government confirmed that GP practices will have their funding for QOF, DES and LES protected during the coronavirus outbreak in a bid to ensure that funding concerns do not impact on decisions made by clinicians during the crisis.

Readers' comments (13)

  • So much for our beloved government doing "anything" and "what ever it needs"

    Anyone actually coming back now hearing this sort of double dealing drivel IMHO is "crackers"

    Useless PPE and this show they genuinely don't give a flying f**k

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  • Consistently predictable and consistently demoralising.

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  • No PPEs and half hearted support. Visits anyone?

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  • DrRubbishBin

    As always on almost every matter regarding general practice the government is seemingly deaf. It takes months and months of relentless campaigning for anything to happen - they eventually changed pension rules, but how long did that take, and really how much is that actually going to achieve, and wasnt that basically about hospital Drs anyway? There appears to be a red hot 'hot-line' between secondary care and government but when it comes to primary care, where they are about to dump pretty much anything that isnt coronovirus and where the staff are in direct contact with everybody ill outside the disinfected corridors of hospital we seem to be communicating with government by second-class snail mail. Why aren't we getting tested? How the hell are we supposed to be visiting everyone at home without PPE? Why on earth arent locum costs being covered for absent staff? I read today they are considering paying the wages of restaurant staff - GPs? Who are they and why on earth would they be involved? 'Oh GPs ..yeah..we'd forgotten about them, they aren' part of our 'models' ..urrr...sorry we'll get back to you on that ..cant you see were busy just now' .We're being set up to be the country's silent super spreaders, which will become apparent in some worthy research paper published 6 months after the virus has eventually passed - it's frankly nuts

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  • They haven’t forgotten about PPEs- read the latest NHSE document- we are supposed to be the home visiting service for Covid patients as hospitals and nhs 111 can’t cope!

    They want us visiting the sick Covid cases-
    I have experienced this today-( LONDON GP)
    A pregnant patient, high fever and short of breath- couldn’t get a response from 111 yesterday and finally they told her to call her GP. I visited her this morning- assessed her: temp 39.5. sats 94 p 106-
    I Even did bloods- got them back a few hours later.....
    CRP 110 with normal white cell count- was sure it was Covid
    Discussed with med registrar in local big LONDON hospital - “ send her to A&E they’ll triage and call me if we’re needed”- I was gob snacked- pretty sure you’ll be needed mate! I called A&E- to confirm this was the right route....- it was! they have a red and a green zone and she could “go wait in the red zone”. The 999 ambulance call to send her to A&E had us on hold for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I then had to leave to see the next patient- she sent me a message that’s she’s still in A& E waiting to be seen having taken a taxi as couldn’t get through to blue light 999 ambulance! This is the reality! The service is not functioning- god help anyone having a stroke- never mind Covid death rates - what are cardiovascular death rates??? No one left to do normal stuff- all overwhelmed already!

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  • DrRubbishBin

    Doc | GP21 Mar 2020 0:13am
    This is a sobering post. Im currently off self isolating, my pregnant + immunosuppressed wife has been staying with relatives. I hope I've had COVID so I will no longer be a risk to my wife simply by going back to work. Problem is I can not get anyone to test me..I've rung round everywhere. I feel a duty to get back to work but in the absence of testing I will not put my wife and unborn babies at risk because the DOH didn't make plans to test the primary care workforce. I'm faced with the uncomfortable prospect of not being able to work for the next several months. Please get on and arrange COVID testing for primary care staff and their families.

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  • Why are GPs still seeing coughs, colds, flus in 'hot' zones like I saw on the bbc. No ones giving you a gold star, so chillout. Do not see the patient, just for your self proclaimed pat on the back, when the treatment is ultimately nothing. One ENT consultant has died already...he should be paraded like a soldier, but never will be, which tells you your worth to NHSE and the public.

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  • DrRubbishBin

    Patrufinito | Manager21 Mar 2020 1:47pm
    GPs generally are trying not to see coughs and colds - thats the whole point of telephone triage. The problem is the patients who on the surface 'probably' dont have COVID but actually do and/or assessment of the unclear, indistinct and fuzzy - unfortunately people dont walk around with labels on their foreheads detailing their diagnosis. Someone has to work that out and it cant always be done over the phone

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  • We’re keeping a list of all Covid related expenses in the vain hope that we might one day be reimbursed: self bought PPE, clear Perspex screen for reception, extra phone lines/mobile phone bills now that everything is via telephone triage. I won’t hold my breath.

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