GP practices are warning of potential cashflow problems after pensions deductions as high as almost £80,000 have been incorrectly taken via the new NHS payments portal in England.
Payment issues, including those relating to QOF, have been ongoing since the launch of the portal, operated by Capita-run Primary Care Support England (PCSE), on 1 June.
It has now emerged that some practices have seen tens of thousands of pounds relating to monthly employer pension deductions taken by the system – with the money still not paid back weeks later.
The BMA has said the ‘myriad’ issues it has been made aware of include duplicated and triplicated pension deductions – including for both practices and individual GPs – as well as pension money being taken for GPs unknown to the practice, and pension deductions suddenly restarting for GPs who had previously opted out.
Other issues include pension deductions not being taken at all, while in other cases practices have seen pension money deducted for GPs who they no longer employ.
The BMA, which is collating GP complaints on the issue, said it anticipated many issues would relate to five-figure sums, warning that ‘some of these problems will have created significant cashflow problems for practices’.
In one case, Pulse has spoken to a practice where around £77,000 was taken when it was expecting just over £1,000 of employer pension contributions to be deducted for one of its salaried GPs.
Another GP practice saw £40,000 of employer contributions disappear from its bank balance – double the amount expected – due to a duplicated payment error, the BMA has told Pulse.
Meanwhile a different GP practice reported a missing drug payment of around £50,000, the BMA added, though this has now been rectified.
In a message to practices, Capita said that issue was to do with missing information from a ‘third party’.
GP partner Dr Anita Pereira, from Laindon Medical Group in Essex, said the £77,000 employer pension deduction that was taken from her practice in June has still not been returned to the practice, despite having been reported to PCSE.
She said: ‘Out of the blue at the end of June £77,000 was taken against [the GP’s] name.
‘We tried to chase it up as it’s more than a month [since we reported it] and we were told it takes 30 working days and after that is escalated.’
She added: ‘I spoke to our accountant and they said it is totally unacceptable… This would cause smaller practices serious cash flow problems and companies would even go under.’
The GP practice has been able to use cash reserves to plug the gap in the finances, but Dr Pereira warned: ‘We tend to leave a month staff wages as cash reserve in the practice account to deal with potential cash flow problems, this helped us tide over the crisis.
‘This potentially could be huge for partners who’d have to take money out of their overdraft to plug the deficit.’
The BMA said the problems were causing confusion for practices – and likely ‘significant cashflow problems’ in some cases.
Dr Ian Hume, BMA GP committee member, said: ‘While we’d expect “teething problems” with any new system, the myriad of issues we’re aware of far exceeding this description.’
He added: ‘While PCSE tell us that these issues are gradually being resolved, we understand that they’re causing confusion for practices and creating additional extra workload at a time when staff are stretched to their limits and should be using their time to care for patients rather than being weighed down by admin and bureaucracy.
‘Meanwhile, some of these problems will have created significant cashflow problems for practices.’
He said: ‘This is the latest in a litany of failings with PCSE since Capita took over the contract, and the problems must be solved urgently and not allowed to happen again.’
A Capita spokesperson said: ‘The online GP Pensions and Payment Service provides GPs and practice staff with greater convenience, more transparency, and security when it comes to their pensions.
‘To launch the system we conducted a complex data migration from legacy platforms to enable far greater transparency of GP pensions data. This also revealed where there are gaps in information.
‘We have an enhanced programme of support in place to address any resulting issues. This involves working with all users of the system – including GPs, practices, commissioners and the BMA – to identify any problems so that they can be resolved quickly. We provide regular updates to all users on what we are doing to address any issues and upcoming improvements to the service.
‘We have provided guidance on the new functionality available on the system and will continue to help all users get the most out of it.’
The new portal lets GPs manage their pensions accounts digitally, including viewing statements and submitting information such as end-of-year certificates and self-assessment forms.
Upon launching the new online service PCSE soon had to reassure GPs who were left confused after portal allocated everyone roles as partner, salaried and locum GPs.
Around 1,000 GP practices did not receive their QOF payments for June, the BMA warned at the time.
NHS England has in recent weeks said it is continuing to address issues with the portal, including GP pension information not being displayed correctly.