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NHS England forced to step in after GPs threatened with court action over delayed payments

Exclusive NHS England has been forced to step in and contact suppliers after five practices were threatened with bailiffs due to problems with late or overdue payments, Pulse has learnt.

The practices in Doncaster were told to forward any unpaid bills to the area team after they were given court orders due to unpaid bills for basic services - such as rent and heating - because they were not reimbursed for them by NHS Shared Business Services.

LMC leaders said at least five of the 44 practices in the city had been given court orders, and warned that the problems have been ongoing since April and have shown no signs of improving.

Pulse reported that one practice in London had been approached by bailiffs, but this is the first time there have been reports of numerous practices in one region all facing potential seizure of property.

The problem of payment chaos has left some practices needing to take out overdrafts, while other practices has been receiving late and incomprehensible payments that have left them with cashflow problems.

Doncaster LMC medical secretary Dr Dean Eggitt said NHS England’s local area team had been ‘good’ in trying to help practices with the court orders and bills via an interim solution. He added, however, that the LMC remained in the dark about the details of that interim plan and practices were still concerned about their future financial viability.

He said: ‘So far I am aware of five practices who have received court orders, out of a total of 44 practices… The reason they have received court orders is because large sums of money are outstanding that should have been paid by NHS SBS that haven’t been paid.’

‘These are all reimbursable costs, such as practice premises and heating, all that sort of stuff that is usually reimbursed. Some of the bills that have been coming through for practices to pay run into hundreds of thousands of pounds so it is impossible for practices to pay these.’

Dr Eggitt said the local area team is ‘taking on the burden of payment’. However, he added: ‘Quite how they are doing that I don’t know.’

He added: ‘At the moment out practices are just forwarding their bills to the area team. [This will continue] until NHS SBS sorts out their problems, I assume, and Lord knows how long that is going to be.’

‘Unfortunately, nobody seems to know where any money lies, who is responsible for paying what. So practices were concerned that they were going to have to foot the bill for this and that they would go into bankruptcy, just simply for defaulting on these bills… It is all still very scary.’

Dr Eggitt added that the problems have been ongoing since April and there are no signs of the situation improving. He said: ‘If [practices] are given their payments, it comes into the bank with no real tag attached and nobody knows what the money is allocated for. There is no paper trail anymore to find out where the money came from. Practice managers are pulling their hair out.’

A spokesperson for NHS England’s South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw area team said: ‘We are aware of a small number of problems with the payment of invoices relating back to the early days of the area team’s establishment on 1 April 2013. We continue to talk to practices in the area to identify and resolve any issues in relation to this.’

Previously, Pulse has reported that up to 10% of English GPs have been affected by NHS England payment issues since April, including unidentifiable, late or incomplete payments that have led to practices being approached by bailiffs and having to take out overdrafts. Earlier this month, Pulse reported that a joint working group with representatives from NHS England, GPC, SBS and IT services had been set up to try to resolve the issues nationally.

A spokesperson from NHS SBS was not available for comment.

 

 

Readers' comments (9)

  • I wonder why the rate of VER is the highest known in history?

    Hang on a minute ..........

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  • As I said before, group together and organise legal action/bailiffs to be sent to the NHS England headquarters. If they don't pay up then start confiscating equipment etc from NHS England's Headquarters. THE NHS IS NOT ABOVE THE LAW WHATEVER THEY TELL YOU SO DON'T BE SO BLOODY SUBMISSIVE.

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  • Nhs payments are in absolute chaos and it begs the question is SNs fit for purpose. Who are they accountable to?

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  • SBS has KPI's with NHS england but they manage the KPI's themselves. As nobody in NHS england really understands what they do it enables SBS to get away with providing a second rate service. Basically they are accountable to nobody! Londond LMC has been complaining about them for years with little improvement!

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  • Similar issue in Birmingham with supposed supposed non- payment of practices' business rates as payments received could not be reconciled due to SBS's unfit for purpose systems.Council sent ignored reminders to Area Team then the bailiffs who were then sent off by AT to practices!! Shambles all round.

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  • astonishing farce.(yet again)
    sympathize with colleagues with which this is occurring.
    NHS england demonstrably yet again showing it is not fit for purpose.heads should be rolling somewhere.
    there should be a parliamentary enquiry about this.
    i hope colleagues are writing to MP's and health ministers directly as well as bma rcgp etc.

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  • its absolute chaos - we run several surgeries in different areas and payments are unidentifiable, we dont know who has paid or what it is for! - how can one run a service like this

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  • Now you know why the BMA wanted industrial action over the NHS Bill 16 months ago. Where were you??

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  • This is NOT an anonymous comment. I am constrained in law from telling it as a Yorkshireman (working in exile in Derbyshire) would
    As you all know I lead on financial issues for GPC.
    Sequentially since March 2013 in formal meetings with NHS England regarding this issue
    I have been polite with them
    I have been firm with them and finally
    I have been rude to them on these issues.
    I warned them that this would get to court action as early as April this year.
    In (??) July I told A VERY SENIOR GP BASED AT NHS ENGLAND IN LEEDS following a 12 minute 10 second reply from HIM and others to stop waffling and start paying ... the civil servants looked shocked at my outspokenness!!
    I told them that in any others all of life we would just walk off the job until paid and that it was wholly unacceptable that GPs are having their dedication exploited in this manner.

    Now some reality.
    1. As a self employed contractor YOU are responsible for the debts. The fact that you have not been paid cuts no ice with bailiffs or creditors.
    2. The debt is your responsibility. Welcome to the world that the rest of business operates in
    3. You need to harness the local press and MPs to shame these incompetent bureaucrats who don't even understand let alone know the legal constraints under which we operate. Tell them you have plans to lay off nurses and HCAs and receptionists
    4. Stick exactly to your terms of service/contract send EVERYTHING to hospital that is not part of your contract.
    5. Now you might consider If you do not have the resource consider going over to emergencies only until you are paid and tell the AT why. However this can of course backfire in that you are losing QoF time AND of course the law prevents me from encouraging you to break your contract and i would never encourage you to break the law! However it is a moot point that your contract has been broken anyway as without a "consideration" there is no contract. I am NOT encouraging you I am just telling you to consider the position very carefully
    5.As you are resource constrained you are of course in no position to do anything except essential matters and the CCGs and AT would therefore have to wait for any data and other non essential tasks to which they demand you to deliver.
    6. The AT chief executive if he had a shred of integrity would forego drawing his own salary until this is sorted out just like the GPs are having to.
    7. Remember to point out to others that this is some accounting technicality affecting your "departmental" or Trust budget under fire but your lack of cash to pay staff and suppliers and your personal solvency. This affects your ability to stay registered and deliver care to patients which is at risk. At risk from the bunch of 9-5 desk jockeys who need "going forward from here take steps to learn lessons..." no just pay up and stop waffling and stop torturing the English language with NHS speak

    Peter Holden
    GPC Negotiator

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