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GP trainees feeling cheated after receiving only £11k of £20k ‘bursary’

Exclusive Health education bosses have been forced to ‘clarify’ its scheme to incentivise GPs to work in under-doctored areas after some trainees received just £11,000 out of a promised £20,000.

The supplement, which was launched as a recruitment incentive last year, was initially billed by Health Education England (HEE) as a ‘bursary’ – a term which is typically used to describe a tax-free education supplement.

However, HEE has since revised all information about the programme to describe it as a ‘salary supplement’.

HEE claimed it had ‘always been clear’ that the incentive payment would be ‘subject to relevant deductions and payments’ but, at the same time, Pulse has learned that in some parts of England trainees have received larger sums.

Dr Samira Anane, chair of the BMA’s GP Trainee Committee, said the amounts trainees have been paid vary hugely around the country.

But she said: ‘It’s fair to say a bursary is not taxed and, if that is indeed what the payment is, one would think that the £20,000 would be given in full and not subjected to deductions.

‘I have not had sight of offer letters or the terms and conditions and so it would be difficult to comment as to how “fully informed” trainees were.’

She added some trainees may be ‘put off’ once they learn they would not receive the incentive, which is being repeated this year, in full. She added trainees should challenge the decision where deductions were made.

A GP who took up an incentivised training post on the Isle of Wight last August, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Pulse she had spoken to HMRC ‘a few times’ before joining the scheme and is now critical of the HEE’s billing of the programme.

She told Pulse: ‘HMRC said “as long as it’s marked as a bursary it shouldn’t be taxable” but two months later HEE changed everything it had online and the word “bursary” disappeared from everything.

‘It’s just the fact that [HEE] marketed it as a bursary and then changed it. For them to now say they’ve always been clear about that, but accept they’ve then had to change the website. It’s clearly not clear.’

But a HEE spokesperson said: ‘We have always been very clear that this is a one-off salary payment and as such is subject to the relevant deductions and payments.’

When pressed on why it had originally been billed as a bursary, they added: ‘It has always been the case that this is a salary supplement and not a bursary.

‘We clarified this so applicants are clear this is not a tax free payment and as such will be subject to the relevant deductions and payments.’

The HEE website advises trainees to talk to their local tax office about exemptions, and Pulse understands some trainees in the West Midlands have managed to claim back tax for their individual arrangements.

In a separate concern, Pulse further understands some deaneries attempted to pay out the ‘one-off’ supplement in monthly instalments, rather than as a lump sum.

The Isle of Wight trainee said this happened in her area but following challenge, the payment was made in one instalment, accompanied by an apology letter from the deanery (seen by Pulse).

She said: ‘I was expecting it as soon as we started the job in August. I had stupidly bought a house and was waiting for the money.’

Dr Anane said the BMA had challenged a number of deaneries which had tried to pay out the supplements in instalments.