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GPs go forth

GPs will only get reimbursed for Covid absence cover if staff can't work remotely

GP practices will only be reimbursed to hire locums and staff to cover for those isolating due to Covid-19 if they are unable to work from home.

NHS England announced last week that under draft plans GP practices are set to receive financial support for Covid-19 staff absence cover as well as any extra staff needed to deliver care homes services.

In March, NHS England had said practices should not expect to be reimbursed from day one when requiring locum cover due to coronavirus. 

Clarifying the current situation in a webinar last Thursday, NHS England director for primary care strategy and NHS contracts Ed Waller said practices should be reimbursed from day one, but that they need to 'demonstrate' that the staff member could not work remotely.

This will be from the General Practice Covid Support Fund, which is still being signed off by the Treasury.

Mr Waller said: ‘We are hoping to secure [absence cover] from day one where GPs and practice staff are off sick with Covid-19. 

‘That would allow you to have a locum in to cover someone who was off sick with suspected Covid if they couldn’t work using remote working solutions from home and that was demonstrable.’

He added that ‘in most cases’ practices are expected to redeploy staff to remote working who are either ‘off sick and able to work’ or shielding and that their salary should be ‘supported by the income flowing to the practice’.

In the same webinar, Mr Waller also told GPs that staffing Covid-19 'hot hubs' fall under the GMS contract and should be undertaken with existing practice resources 'in the first instance'.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Um, if a member of staff was ill at home with possible Covid and couldn't work, how do you wish us to demonstrate that? Would you like a copy of their Med 3? And where is the computer equipment for remote working? After vague promises of financial and hardware resources the reality is retraction, weasling and dodging as usual.

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  • Ed waller has a surprising lack of knowledge and insight into practice and employment contracts given his position hence his absurd statements. If a member of staff is ill and unable to come to work, an employer cannot force them to work and would be in breach of the employment contract. Despite this, if by some sense of loyalty, an ill colleague decided to work from home, it would not be at the capacity of a fully fit worker and limited in scope due to remote working and as result there would still be impairment of a practices ability to provide an adequate usual service. Hence the need for supplementary locums. Agree that practices are responsible for the first 2 weeks of employee sick leave before getting reimbursement but we are in an exceptional situation due to national isolation rules regarding COVID. The ability of self isolating clinically well staff to return to work was also seriously hampered by NHSE failings in healthcare worker testing in the early stages of the COVID pandemic. This gives rise to increased expenses for practice above the agreed guarantee of core GMS funding during the COVID pandemic. IE practices would be out of pocket. Regarding the comment on staffing hot hubs, I really dont know where to start. The key point of GMS is that practices are expected to provide for the REASONABLE needs of their patients and the current pandemic is not a REASONABLE situation. It is clearly exceptional and should be funded outside GMS as stated by BBO LMCs. Should NHSE decide to impose Hot hub work onto GP practices, NHSE should remember that a significant number of primary care workers are BAME and there would be a good case for breach of health and safety should there be any deaths as a result of any such imposition as in Northern Ireland. I find the BMAs position in NI relating to hot hub work for NI GP staff and colleagues shocking.

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  • more evidence of nhse trying to bankrupt GP practices.

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