By Gareth Iacobucci
Exclusive: GPs face paying back tens of thousands of pounds in seniority pay unless they can prove that falls in their superannuable income have been caused by plunging practice profits rather than a decrease in workload.
PCT bosses have informed practices in Buckinghamshire they will claw back thousands from GP partners who have fallen below the threshold of two-thirds of the national average of superannuable income - around £63,000.
Accountants said the move by NHS Buckinghamshire could see practices stung for £4,000-£5,000 of income for every year's worth of seniority pay clawed back.
But LMC leaders said GPs would have strong grounds for appeal if they could prove that they had not been reducing their NHS work, but had simply suffered from plummeting practice profits.
Dr Paul Roblin, chief executive of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire LMCs, has drafted a letter laying out how GPs can appeal against clawbacks they perceive to be unfair, which the PCT has agreed to circulate to affected practices.
He said: ‘The grey area is having to prove that being in the wrong income category for seniority was not based on an altered workload but was based on changed practice profitability. That's the essence of the argument.'
‘So if you dropped a tier on the basis that you've dropped the number of sessions then there's a proper reason to go for clawback, but if it's just that practice's income and expenditure equation has altered then you do have grounds for appeal.'
Dr Roblin said PCTs could be ramping up efforts because of the need to balance the books ahead of the handover to GP consortia.
He said: ‘They are all trying to save money. They want to get their books sorted out by the time PCTs are no longer in existence.'
Rosemary Smith, senior partner at RS Medical Accountancy, told Pulse GPs could be hit for thousands depending on how many years' worth of income PCTs try to claw back.
‘If you're losing 40% [of seniority pay], you would be talking about a reduction of about £4,000-£5,000,' she said. ‘If you were talking about four years, it could be £20,000, which on top of everything else is a lot of extra money.'
A spokesperson for NHS Buckinghamshire said: 'NHS Buckinghamshire is reviewing the concerns that have been raised and continues to work with the LMC to ensure this matter is resolved satisfactorily.'
Dr Paul Roblin