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Complaints system is heavily biased in favour of the public

Earlier this year Dr Cornel Fleming won a landmark legal victory to claim £2,944 in unpaid PGEA ­ here he sets out the basic facts of his case 'in order to help other GPs claim money which is rightfully theirs'

On February 22 this year, District Judge Michael Haselgrove found in my favour in my battle against Islington PCT over PGEA payments for the year 2003/4. He awarded me £2,944 plus costs and opened the door for GPs around the UK to make similar claims.

Rather than pay up, PCTs are sitting tight and waiting for GPs to take them to the small claims court as I did.

Following the NHS contract and its global sum, many GPs accepted that this sum encompassed all old payments. They also accepted that no old money was included in the global sum.

Indeed, this principle is set out in a GPC document in my possession. But to be successful it was necessary for me to demonstrate that the PGEA payments made to me each year since 1990 were for educational activity undertaken in the previous year.

In 1989 the Government top-sliced some GP money and told GPs they could earn it back by attending a series of postgraduate lectures in various categories. The regulations are quite clear: the first certificates were issued in 1989 and this triggered the first payments in 1990 which were made quarterly in arrears.

GPs regularly received reminders to send in PGEA certificates and annually fill in the claim forms. And, on the basis of these forms the next year's payments were made. A plethora of documentation supports this.

At this time a supplement to the Red Book appeared dated which set out the rule for PGEA. Paragraph 37.12 reads: 'First claim: the practitioner has attended at least five days of accredited postgraduate educational courses in the one year preceding the claim.'

And, under the heading 'Arrangements during 1990' paragraph 37.18 says: 'Practitioners will be eligible for the full allowance if by April 1, 1990, they have attended five days accredited education in the preceding year.'

It could not be clearer. It all started in 1989, payments were made in arrears on a quarterly basis in 1990 ­ so the last payment in March 2004 was for the year2002/3, leaving 2003/4 not yet paid!

Finally, the GPC document The new GMS contract explained specifically states: 'In the past GPs had to get trigger a PGEA payment to an individual GP. These payments were paid in arrears.'

I think this should be enough to explain why the judge ordered my PCT to pay me ­ and why hundreds of GPs are still owed money for the last year of PGEA.

Any GP who would like further details about how to claim should contact the Small Practices Association on 01706 620920.

Cornel Fleming is a GP in London

What PCT managers argued in court

They argued that PGEA payments for 2003/4 were made during that year, for that year's training, and the amount paid was based on training completed in previous years.

They claimed PGEA payments were now subsumed into the new contract's global sum payment for appraisal and revalidation, and that therefore no extra was due.

But ruling in Dr Fleming's favour, Judge Michael Haselgrove denied the trust's interpretation of the Red Book and awarded Dr Fleming his money.

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