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GPs remain ‘out of pocket’ for PPE despite £96m reimbursement successfully claimed


PPE reimbursement


Exclusive GPs have successfully claimed £96m in long-awaited PPE reimbursement from the Government but could remain ‘out of pocket’ thanks to the scheme’s eligibility criteria, Pulse has learned.

In December, GPs were given a 5 February deadline to submit claims for reimbursement for PPE purchased between 27 February and 31 December 2020 – and used by 31 March 2021.

But the scheme only covered ‘standard’ PPE, as recommended for use by Public Health England (PHE), and items that could not be supplied centrally.

At the time, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the scheme would be limited by ‘claims thresholds’ but that most eligible providers were ‘expected’ to fall within these.

Now the DHSC has confirmed to Pulse that it received total claims of £96m from GPs working in practices and out-of-hours services in England.

A spokesperson said that this has now been paid to GPs in full.

However, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that practices could still be left ‘out of pocket’ because many purchased PPE before reimbursement criteria were published.

He told Pulse: ‘While practices were able to apply retrospectively for reimbursement via CCGs, there was no guarantee that all of the equipment practices had sourced themselves would be eligible as the criteria were not published before practices bought PPE, thus leaving them potentially out of pocket.

‘With a proper pandemic plan and PPE strategy this would never have been an issue.’

Dr Vautrey added that the PPE provided to practices ‘at the height of the pandemic’ was ‘nowhere near adequate in quantity or quality for what was needed to protect staff, and in turn, patients’.

He said: ‘Amid widespread shortages – and an ineffective central ordering system – practices often had to source their own supplies, with more than two-thirds of GPs we surveyed last May telling us that they’d had to rely on donations or items they’d bought themselves.’

And GP out-of-hours provider Badger – which covers around 1.4m patients in Birmingham and Solihull – will remain around £100,000 out of pocket after it decided the PPE recommended by the Government was not sufficient to protect staff.

Badger CEO and group medical director Dr Fay Wilson, a GP in Birmingham, said: ‘The £100,000 was [non-reimbursable]. 

‘The NHS told us at the time we won’t be reimbursing you for this and you shouldn’t be using it [but] it was our staff association that decided we were going to do what we wanted.’

Dr Wilson shaved her hair as part of a PPE fundraising appeal for the Badger group when she realised ‘the NHS wouldn’t pay for the level of PPE we needed’.

The out-of-hours provider was also forced to rely on donations to keep it going amid unreliable supply from the Government.

GPs were finally invited in August to bid for reimbursement for costs incurred to date during the pandemic, after months of waiting for the Covid support fund to be cleared by the Treasury.

However, the fund excluded details for how to claim for PPE, with NHS England saying at the time that further details on this would be communicated ‘soon’.

Finally announcing the PPE claims process in December, the DHSC had said that there would be some flexibility for ‘exceptional’ claims, including if local risk assessments had deemed higher-grade PPE ‘necessary’.

GPs have been provided with free PHE-approved PPE from a central Government stock since September – which will continue to be in place until March 2022.

The PPE portal was set up in May, but at first this was only ‘supplement’ the PPE that practices themselves sourced via wholesale routes.

In February, almost 20 healthcare bodies, including the BMA, wrote to the Prime Minister calling for stronger PPE guidance amid emerging scientific evidence around the transmission of Covid-19. 

Meanwhile, Pulse reported that GPs were turning down shifts at a Covid assessment centre after the local health board ‘banned’ them from wearing higher-grade PPE than what was recommended.

Additional reporting by Emily Stearn