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‘Hundreds’ of practices denied DES funding worth tens of thousands over ‘minutiae’

Exclusive GPs have said that ‘hundreds’ of practices in some areas are being denied funding worth tens of thousands of pounds for the patient participation enhanced services as a result of local area teams imposing a hardline stance on what they must achieve, Pulse has learned.

GPs have said that NHS England has withheld payments for the DES for 2013/14 because practices did not follow the specification to the letter in all of its six component parts, representing a shift from a more lenient stance in previous years.

In South Yorkshire, half of all practices have been affected, LMC leaders said, while similarly ‘hundreds’ of practices are affected in London.

The DES – which is worth £1.10 per patient – finished in March 2014, and required practices to issue reports on the make-up of their group, run patient group meetings and surveys, analyse results and form action plans with their patient groups.

But practices have said that a failure to adhere to the ‘minutiae’ of the DES meant NHS England was withholding the whole payments from practices.

Dr Dean Eggitt, chair of Doncaster LMC, said a GP practice in South Yorkshire lost £10,000 worth of funding when it failed the DES because it uploaded the contents of its report to its website, rather than creating a report in an accepted Word or PDF document.

Meanwhile, a GP at a practice in north London, who wished to remain anonymous, said the practice was not paid for 2013/14 because it failed to include a patient group age and ethnicity profile in its report.

Dr Eggitt said: ‘I am not sure with regards to other areas but in South Yorkshire it was almost 50% of practices that were not paid. That is quite a large number and the decisions have been based on minutiae. One of the practices in our region has missed out on the patient participation DES because they had not called their report a report.

‘Instead what they did is they put it on their website in an easy-to-read format for the patients. But because that wasn’t a formalised report in a Word document, or a PDF document, they didn’t get the payment. For that practice, that was worth about £10,000.’

The north London GP said that the local area team had withheld payments from their practice.

The GP said: ‘Because of the exact wording of the DES, hundreds of practices are being told they are not receiving any payment for the patient participation DES for 2013/14. There are six components to the DES and in our case we missed writing a paragraph detailing the ethnic/age profile of our patient group in our yearly report for component one.

‘As a result NHS England is not paying us for that component or any of the subsequent five components – never mind that these have been completed fully, via patient group meetings, running surveys, analysing results, discussing with patient groups, forming action plans and carrying out the actions.’

The GP said that Camden LMC was making representations to NHS England about the ‘unfairness’ of the decisions.

The GP added: ‘This DES is worth £1.10 per patient, which is a significant amount of money for practices struggling with workload and falling income. Frankly it’s a kick in the teeth to all the practices who have gone the extra mile to incorporate patient groups and involve them in the running of the practice. I know of many practices, including our own, that will ditch the DES for 2014/15 if this is not resolved.’

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘Practices are being paid in accordance with the financial rules set out in the Statement of Financial Entitlements. It is for area teams to determine if enhanced services payments are due and whether or not practices have achieved the specified criteria. There is of course an appeal process if a practice feels that it has been treated unfairly.’

The respective area teams were also approached separately for a comment, but they said only NHS England’s national press office would issue a statement.