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NHS managers investigating GPs over 'nonsense' care home claims

NHS England and the CQC are investigating claims that GPs are ‘double-charging’ for services provided to care homes, an allegation GP leaders have described as ‘nonsense’.

Baroness Jolly, who is a Liberal Democrat health whip in the House of Lords, said that the Department of Health is working with the CQC and NHS England to produce guidance on the ‘disparity’ between the fees charged by GPs to care homes and the services provided.

In a parliamentary debate yesterday (Tuesday), Lords said that GPs are engaging in ‘fraud’ by charging for work that ‘ought to be provided for free’.

However, GP leaders have said there is no double charge at all, and that the services being discussed were ‘over and above’ contract requirements.

The chief inspector of general practice, Dr Steve Field, had previously attacked GPs over claims that they were ‘refusing to talk to patients from care homes without receiving a fee’.

The Lords debate was in response to Dr Field’s claims. Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Brinton asserted that there was a disparity between care home fees and the GP services they received, and asked what the Government was doing to prevent this ‘double charging’.

Baroness Jolly replied: ‘It certainly does appear to be double charging, and the department is working with both CQC and NHS England to get to the bottom of it. Guidance is in the process of being written and disseminated.’

A Labour peer, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath argued that some GPs were charging for work that ‘ought to be provided free’ and that some GPs were labelling standard care as enhanced services.

He said: ‘Will the noble Baroness say a little more about what action should be taken? As this appears to be fraud… should this not be a matter for referral to the police?’

Baroness Jolly answered: ‘In the first instance, rather than referring it to the police, NHS England needs to find out exactly the extent of what is going on. The whole business of enhanced services is slightly confused because under the new GP contract there are several enhanced services that would be appropriate within a care home which should not be paid for.’

But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey explained that enhanced services were only those that went beyond standard care, such as providing a ‘ward-round type of visit’ – taking a whole afternoon to proactively assess every patients’ care – instead of making visits at a patient’s request.

He added: ‘Now that means the practice has to resource that, if the GP is spending a whole afternoon at the care home then somebody has to be seeing a GP back at the practice, and that means employing a locum or a salaried GP or expending another partner’s time, and that takes resource.’

‘That’s what the resources is used for, it’s used to maintain resource back in the practice. So if you hear that practices are “making money” out of this, it’s just about practices covering their costs.’

He added: ‘It’s nonsense […] A very tiny number still receive [retainers], but those practices that do so at the request of the care home and provide an additional level of service that’s over and above standard GMS practice.’

‘There’s no double charge at all, and it’s excuse making by certain people trying to blame GPs for what - actually - is a much bigger issue: the need to properly resource care for patients in the community, and the lack of resource for people, not just in nursing homes or residential homes, but in their own homes.’

Dr Peter Davies, a member of the RCGP Council, said these enhanced services were in line with Government policy.

He said: ‘It’s actually on a par with what they’re proposing with the named clinician for over 75s; basically saying old and vulnerable people need systematic and organised care, and not just seeing every so often when they get a chest infection.’

NHS England explained that, working through their area teams, they were responsible for ensuring practices dont breach the terms of their contract and take actions where breaches are identified.

A spokesperson told Pulse: ‘Except in certain prescribed circumstances, regulations prohibit a GP from charging patients a fee for services that should be provided under the GP contract. The regulations also prohibit indirectly charging patients, for instance by requesting fees from a care home.’

‘It is a matter between a GP practice and a care home if they agree to enter into a private arrangement to provide services that fall outside those provided through the GP contract.’



Readers' comments (16)

  • There is a simple solution to this problem. If retainers and fees for non-GMS are scrapped, all mobile patients should be asked to attend the surgery - with the home providing the transport and an accompanying staff member.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Let's clarify facts and present evidences . What is the majority situation ? What is the minority?
    Exactly how GPs are paid to cover nursing home? For what?
    Steve Fields and NHS England, come out to present all facts and findings in an official Press Conference and answer all the questions from the media. You owe us that.
    Common Law spirit- Presumed innocent until proven guilty NOT the other way round . This is not Russia, China or North Korea.....
    Please send in your comments.

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  • 1) Nursing homes ask for medication charts to be written up and signed. We do not do this for our non- nursing home patients and is not GMS.
    2) Nursing homes often ask for a routine visit at the same time each week. They advertise this to prospective residents- non-GMS and capital gain for the home.

    These are just 2 of the examples that slippery tongued politicians or our leaders can twist into double billing. Anyone truly charging homes for GMS services should be investigated but it still remains for most of us that nursing homes take up a disproportional amount of time to the GMS funding received.

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  • I would suggest that there IS abuse in relation to Nursing Homes and GP's - however rather the reverse than being suggested above. As I see it Nursing Homes are employing fewer and lesser qualified staff and relying on GP's to plug the gaps when those staff cannot cope..

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  • What is actually going on here is that nursing homes are desperately looking at ways to cut their costs to the bone to maintain profits. If you look at a standard elderly care ward you would have consultant access, some registrar time and at least an SHO just. Nursing homes have residents who have similar high needs that cannot be met through GMS alone. GPs are hobbled by few means to manage demand. It is entirely appropriate to seek resources for ward rounds and other such activity if it impacts on services for other GMS patients. Think about it, if you were saddled with 5 new nursing homes all expecting hospital level services for free, your practice would be in financial trouble pretty quickly whilst the owners are sucking out resources from practice staff and laughing all the way to the bank. This business model is not sustainable for anyone - the BMA need to get a grip on this ASAP.

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  • Absolutely it would be interesting to see the changes in actual qualified nurses present on an average shift in a nursing home. At my previous practice the NH had only 1 regular nurses and she seems to be on call much of the time for the HCA's.

    But this did result in a noticeable increase in calls over a 3 yr period, actually it ended up needing a weekly round to manage the calls. Not sure they were being charged but they shoudl have been

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  • Does anyone know if Paul Dacre was a medical school reject - ?

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  • This is all part of The Daily Mail's slander campaign. This awful paper staffed by unprofessional journalists is so desperate to avoid some kind of regulation that it will continue working as the Governments proxy to avoid this outcome.

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