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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Keep your guard up and check your pay

There is an old boxing adage about never letting your guard drop. If you do you'll get hurt. I was reminded of this recently while checking our monthly payment statement from the PCT.

One of the promised bonuses of nGMS was that we would be able to spend much less time claiming and checking payments.

A new climate of trust would prevail with fewer and less comprehensive claims.

We could all just get on with our jobs and our labours would be miraculously and accurately rewarded.

In just this one statement of ours there were three errors, affecting maternity, capitation and seniority.

I counted no fewer than 18 elements to our payments – at least as many as used to be the case on our old GMS monthly statements!

It seems bureaucracy really cannot bear simplicity.

GP superannuation is a good example of this. Two years ago we started to receive employer's contributions in our monthly payments and then had to return them with our employee contributions to the PCT. Now both of these are once again deducted at source by the PCT. Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose.

Complicated systems usually result in more errors, so claiming, chasing and checking remain as vital as they always have been.

The elements of nGMS are triggered in three different ways. Claims are made for items such as most enhanced services, drugs reimbursement and maternity. These are based on quantitative information provided by the practice, often aided by computer searches. Claims may be made monthly or quarterly.

Other items are paid on the basis of a practice aspiration or plan. QOF aspiration payment is the best example of this. Part of the payments for the four new DESs are also paid in this way.

Finally some items are paid or deducted based on information provided by the practice. Capitation and QOF balance (both electronic information), seniority and GP superannuation are the main areas here.

The only way to ensure that you claim correctly is to draw up a 'claims' spreadsheet containing all of your payment and deduction elements. Quantify each item and tick once the claim is made. A 'last updated' column should also be included to provide a prompt for areas such as seniority where each GP now steps up each level annually (rather than every six years as under the old system).

Your spreadsheet should also have a column showing the expected payment date. In most cases this will be the main mid-month payment. Once again this will act as a prompt so any unpaid items can be chased in good time.

The same spreadsheet should be used for checking the

accuracy of payments. Query any amount that does not match your estimate.

You should use the same system for private payments. You will find that occasionally a mistake is yours but FPCs, then FHSAs and now PCTs have always made errors in the past and will go on doing so.

Trust will produce financial pain – so keep on guard.

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