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Treasury requests proof of additional GP costs before releasing Covid support

Exclusive GPs may not be reimbursed for costs relating to Covid-19 unless NHS England can prove it has caused practices additional costs, Pulse has learned.

Pulse understands that the Treasury has not approved the General Practice Covid Support Fund, nearly two months after it was first touted by NHS England.

GPs have been told to keep a note of all additional costs relating to the pandemic, including costs for locum cover when GPs or staff have to self-isolate; extra staff needed for the Covid care home support service, and for PPE.

But a memo seen by Pulse said the Treasury wants to see evidence that GP practices have actually incurred additional costs before releasing any funding.

Pulse understands that NHS England will begin by asking CCGs for evidence, and approach individual practices if this does not generate sufficient evidence to obtain approval.

The news comes as the BMA has written to chief secretary of the Treasury Stephen Barclay urging the Government to release the Covid support fund, as the delay was putting primary care services in jeopardy.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that without the funding ‘services will inevitably be hit at a time when more resource than ever will be needed to support the backlog of non-Covid-19 NHS work’.

The letter noted that general practice has responded ‘rapidly and effectively’ to the pandemic and as a result ‘practices have incurred significant additional financial obligations which they have been told repeatedly would be reimbursed’.

It added: ‘The failure to deliver on the Government’s welcome commitments at the outset of this pandemic risks not only undermining the confidence of the profession but also their ability to respond in the coming weeks and months ahead.

‘Without this necessary additional funding services will inevitably be hit, at a time when more resource than ever will be needed to support the backlog of non-Covid-19 NHS work, as core NHS services are resumed.’

Costs have included procuring PPE, establishing ‘hot hubs’, providing locum support and adopting necessary remote consulting technology, Dr Vautrey said, as well as ensuring additional support in care homes and visits to shielding patients.

The promised funding was first announced early in April when NHS England said practices would be entitled to reimbursement for additional pandemic related costs, through a General Practice Covid Support Fund. 

Since then, it has repeatedly reassured practices that any ’additional costs’ would be reimbursed.

Pulse revealed in April that GP practices in some areas have been given a cash boost worth £1 per patient by their CCGs, to help cover the extra costs of managing the Covid-19 pandemic response.

The decisions were taken as details of the Covid support fund touted by NHS England was taking time to materialise, leaving GPs with uncertainty about cash flow.