EXCLUSIVE: GPs across England have been reporting problems with the Covid vaccination payment system, potentially delaying thousands of pounds worth of fees and leading to unnecessary paperwork, Pulse has learnt.
The problems have been caused by inaccuracies in the data captured on the number of patients vaccinated, while there are also reports of information having to be manually entered.
Issues have arisen within the data section of the Pinnacle IT system, which has meant that hundreds of patients are ‘missing’ from the records.
The BMA has said it has heard ‘concerning’ reports around problems with proposed payments to primary care networks (PCNs), calling on NHS England to fix the problem ‘urgently’.
NHS England has admitted that some payments for GPs vaccinating housebound patients will not be paid this month.
PCNs have told Pulse there have been ‘discrepancies’ in the information uploaded to Pinnacle, compared to their own notes detailing their expected payments.
There are also understood to have been:
- No housebound category until last week, meaning PCNs have to retrospectively change data to claim payments;
- Data having to be manually entered or recorded using paper;
- Missing data entries;
- GPs being rendered unable to conduct searches.
Some aspects are believed to now be resolved, but practice staff are continuing to field days’ worth of backlogs of data, with GPs warning of issues around cash flow that could lead to problems paying staff.
Dr Manu Agrawal, clinical director of Cannock North PCN, told Pulse that the numbers of patients logged by Pinnacle do not correspond with the PCN’s own figures. He said: ‘The biggest problem is that data sent via… Pinnacle is not accurate for payment purposes.’
At his own PCN, the discrepancy between the site’s figures and the Pinnacle figures was ‘50 on site and approximately 80 in care homes… but I’m aware of neighbouring PCNs where data seems to be out by a discrepancy of 500 to 600 – 1,100 in one case’, Dr Agrawal said.
He added: ‘The reconciliation will be a nightmare process, taking huge amounts of admin time and resources, which is unfunded.’
In Kent, Dr John Allingham, medical director of the county’s LMC, said: ‘Most PCNs are reporting missing figures – hundreds of missing patients, which means thousands of pounds of missing money.
‘There are issues with cash flow to pay staff, which needs resolving asap.’
He added: ‘Staff need paying for the overtime in vaccine clinics – some have been paid in January for December work. Now we are approaching February pay runs, and the money will be needed from the vaccine reimbursement.
‘PCNs can’t sign it off because of under-recording, and so there is a risk payment may be delayed another month.’
‘Hopefully it will be sorted nationally and locally – it will help if CCGs can cover any cash flow issues.’
Dr Rami Eliad, whose PCN is in Watford, told Pulse: ‘As a PCN, we could not accept the numbers and payment offered, as the discrepancy for January was greater than 250 injections.’
Dr Simon Hodes, also of a Watford PCN, said his PCN has had problems: ‘We’ve been left in a position of either accepting (lower) incorrect payments (about 5% variance) for the last few months activity and trying to challenge this later, or decline the payments until they are corrected. We think the latter approach is more likely to be resolved accurately – but will cause cash flow issues. We understand this is a national issue, and the variance is larger in other PCNs.
‘Like many GPs, we cannot understand why we cannot simply record vaccines in our own clinical notes as we do for flu annually and then the data can be extracted overnight to the national database. This would be a far simpler, more accurate for claiming, and, in many ways, safer approach.’
Dr Rob Barnett, medical director of Liverpool LMC, said: ‘There does appear to be a problem reconciling information, and practices are reporting absence of information coming through to GP records.’
Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, BMA GP committee deputy chair, told Pulse: ‘We have heard concerning reports from a number of PCNs that they’re being asked to confirm information for payment purposes that does not accurately reflect the number of vaccinations they have actually delivered, with figures sometimes hundreds short.
‘NHS England must fix this problem urgently, otherwise practices risk having no funding with which to pay staff who have spent the last two months working hard to protect patients.’
In November, NHS England announced that GPs will use Pinnacle to record Covid vaccinations under the new enhanced service, until their own IT systems have been modified but Pulse reported GPs were having problems logging in on the first day.
A BMA GPC update sent to practices on 29 January said: ‘As a result of IT problems, some vaccination sites have had to record patient information on paper rather than inputting it directly into the Pinnacle system.
‘We would therefore encourage practice sites to upload this information as soon as possible, which also needs to be done for payment purposes. This will also help NHSE/I to plan properly for the timing of the second dose delivery.’
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘Due to a data processing issue, a small proportion of payments to GPs for vaccinating housebound patients in January will not be paid this month but any payments for work done this month will be fulfilled.
‘Work is underway to resolve the issue as soon as possible.’