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GPs look to debt collectors to chase locum agency struggling to pay out earnings



Exclusive GPs owed thousands have enlisted professional debt collectors after a national locum agency failed to pay out their earnings in time, Pulse can reveal.

Dr Matt Mayer, chair of pressure group GP Survival and a GP in Aylesbury, said Primary Care People owes him an outstanding £5,600 and that he has ‘hired debt collectors’ to chase the sum.

Doncaster-based locum GP Dr Shamriz Hussain, who told Pulse he was owed £12,500 by the same agency, added that he is also in talks with debt collectors.

Primary Care People told Pulse that the problem of late payments is affecting ‘less than 70’ locum GPs on their payroll – with no outstanding payments more than three weeks overdue – and was caused by the Government’s recent change to tax legislation.

Dr Mayer said: ‘I invoiced them on 26 May to be paid on 2 June. That wasn’t paid. I asked them why and they said they didn’t have the cashflow to be able to pay any invoices.

‘They phoned today to say they cannot pay me until July, despite threatening debt recovery. I can’t afford to not be paid £5,600 so I have passed to debt collectors and cancelled all remaining shifts.’

Dr Hussain said: ‘I am owed £12,500 thus far and no sign of payment. I’m told it’s an issue with their payment system and will be resolved by 16 June but seems to be having no signs of improvement. I’m in touch with a debt collector.’

Primary Care People chief executive Tawhid Juneja said that cashflow problems had arisen due to the agency taking an ‘over-ambitious’ approach to the Government’s IR35 changes, which came into force from April.

The changes mean that GP practices using locums need to check in each instance whether they are liable for paying tax and NIC at source, which could drive up the overall cost of using locums.

Before, slightly over half of GPs working as locums via Primary Care People had been paid directly by the practice. But in anticipation of the IR35 change, the company began to pay its locums directly as of last December, with practices paying the agency instead.

Mr Juneja told Pulse this had caused the cashflow problems, as well as the difficulty in letting GPs on the payroll know when they would be paid, as the agency did not know when GP practice clients would pay their bills.

He said: ‘We have done something proactive, that has had a short-term impact on our ability to pay doctors.

‘If all locums are put inside IR35 it means the cost of labour is going to go up, GPs will cost more money, GPs will be taxed more, which means they have to be earning less and to earn the same amount they have to charge a higher rate.’

He said the company made the decision because it ‘understands IR35’ and ‘for the simple reason that it takes the liability away from practices and we wanted GPs to still be able to get paid the usual way through limited companies’.

But he added: ‘There was a little bit of over-ambition from us about taking on all these GPs at the same time.’