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GP practices delivering Covid vaccinations ‘for free or at a loss’, survey reveals


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More than 40% of GPs in England say their practices either broke even or made a financial loss by taking part in the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, a specialist Pulse survey has revealed.

The survey, of almost 100 GP partners and managers with access to practices’ financial accounts, showed 32% broke even (31 respondents) while 10% (10) lost money.

In one case, the estimated loss was £100,000 for a practice serving over 10,000 patients.

Another similarly large practice lost £20,000, while two others with fewer than 10,000 patients estimated they were each £5,000 out of pocket.

GPs and practice managers indicated financial losses were caused by the extra staffing needed for the service, which paid £12.58 per jab through NHS England’s DES.

However, 44% of survey respondents said they made a profit from phase 1 of the vaccination programme – which ran from December 2020 until April 2021, and saw jabs given to over-50s and clinically vulnerable patients.

A total of 14% said they ‘don’t know’ the impact on their finances from the scheme.

Among those making a profit (43), sums of between £1,000 and £10,000 were typically reported though one practice made £42,000.

Two practice managers reported profits of £50,000, with one explaining they ‘utilised surgery staff and volunteers to deliver the programme’, adding that they had ‘no estates costs for hire of the venue’.

The specialist survey, carried out in May by Pulse’s practice business platform Pulse Intelligence about the impact of Covid-19 on finances, also revealed:

  • 45% of 190 GP partners/practice managers expect overall practice profits to decrease in 2020/21, with 26% saying they will ‘stay the same’
  • 40% said their practice income in 2020/21 decreased, with 30% reporting it ’stayed the same’
  • Reduced minor surgery was the most common reason for experiencing a loss in income (48%), followed by a drop in routine immunisations other than children’s (36%) and also local authority LES payments (33%)
  • 40% (of around 120 respondents) said their PPE costs were not reimbursed by the NHS, while 30% said they were unable to reclaim locum fees

GPs losing out on cash from the Covid vaccination programme highlighted the sheer volume of work involved – on top of providing normal GP services – and large amount of staff time taken up.

One GP partner in Blackpool explained their service ‘financially broke even’, but that due to ‘practice work and staffing’, they had lost out.

Another GP partner who made a loss, based in Durham, said: ‘[The vaccination programme] needed lot[s] of management time…clinical oversight and.. [a] lot of chasing up to do.’

Dr Matt Mayer, chief executive of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire LMCs, said the lack of money some practices had earned from vaccinations demonstrated the sacrifices GPs were willing to make.

He said: ‘The fact that the Covid vaccination programme is yielding little profit to practices – and even sometimes a loss – is further testament to the enormous sacrifice GPs and their teams are making in leading this national programme.’

Pulse has approached NHS England for comment.

GPs were invited to join the first phase of the Covid vaccination programme at the end of 2020 by signing up via a local primary care network (PCN), with recent data indicating the GP-led sites delivered more than two in three of all Covid vaccinations during the first phase.

But just over one in five of the 1,032 PCNs that delivered the first phase of the Covid vaccination programme opted out of the second phase, according to official NHS England figures, obtained by Pulse.

NHS England said earlier this month that it is ‘not operationally feasible’ for GP to offer Covid booster jabs, being planned for this autumn, at a practice level – and has said GP involvement will be capped at providing 75% of the vaccines.

For the full survey results and analysis of the findings, go to Pulse Intelligence.

READERS' COMMENTS [11]

Michael Mullineux 28 July, 2021 11:09 am

Kind of concerning that 14% ‘don’t know’ ….. Further mystifying that any would sign up to the booster phase of this programme in its current form.

terry sullivan 28 July, 2021 11:19 am

charge full price–or better–say no! when the claims come in, and they will, you will be in the firing line

Colin Malcomson 28 July, 2021 11:23 am

Mother Theresa syndrome for idiots

John Glasspool 28 July, 2021 12:19 pm

Foolish people!

Bonglim Bong 28 July, 2021 12:29 pm

I don”t really understand how you can manage to lose money on it. I totally agree if you can’t get the numbers to work for you, you need to stop doing it.

David jenkins 28 July, 2021 12:46 pm

i’m sorry, but when ken clarke (remember him ?) imposed our “new contract” on us, he uttered the immortal words “i want gp practices to run like small businesses” – hence fundholding, and a lot of other silly nonsense.

i think we should heartily embrace what he suggested, and if the money does not follow the patient, they will, unfortunately, have to go elsewhere.

we might then be in a position where our true worth is acknowledged, and we would be treated less like expendable accessories !

just a thought !

Dr N 28 July, 2021 4:35 pm

PCN were a great invention. They are designed to confuse GPs into accepting any old cr@p.

David Jarvis 28 July, 2021 7:19 pm

Is there a bias in these surveys with some embarassment about making money? We have made significantly more money than listed after paying staff overtime and a lots of stuff was funded centrally like supplies of syringes, even IT support and of course PPE. We are looking at at least £150,000 profit. 14000 patient practice. I don’t know why the difference.

Patrufini Duffy 28 July, 2021 10:27 pm

Intelligent GPs I see are opting out of the scheme with immediacy.

Dave Haddock 28 July, 2021 10:47 pm

How can you not make money doing this?

Patrufini Duffy 29 July, 2021 11:04 pm

I can’t hear any claps anymore. Must be using those pans to boil frogs.