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Practice receives two visits from bailiffs after NHS England ignored six demands

Exclusive A practice has had two unannounced visits from bailiffs looking to collect unpaid business rates of around £34,000 after NHS England ignored six demands for the payments, Pulse can reveal.

Birmingham City Council tasked bailiffs with collecting £32,160.50 in unpaid business rates – plus more than £2,600 in ‘enforcement costs’ – for the Ley Hill Health Centre, Northfield, after sending repeated summons to NHS England.

The collectors turned up at the practice on Monday morning, even though the council had been sending invoices, payment requests and final warnings to NHS England, without the practice being made aware.

The unpaid debt dated back to September 2014, and may have come about following a mix-up around whether the CCG or NHS England were responsible for business rates after the practice switched CCGs.

Birmingham City Council told Pulse they ‘were not sure what had happened’ in this practice’s case, and had asked for the bailiff’s processes to be paused while they investigate.

Pulse understands the practice has been given the funding by NHS England, but are required to action the payment to the bailiffs because the local area team cannot make the payment to a third party in one working day.

Business partner at Ley Hill, Wendy Loveridge, told Pulse that this has taking a whole day of practice time out.

She said: ‘[The bailiff] was adamant he wasn’t going anywhere until he collected the £34,000 that Birmingham City Council were owed.

The confusion came about because NHS Birmingham South Central CCG – which has delegated responsibility for commissioning primary care – assumed responsibility for payments, including rent, but the responsibility for business rates appears to have stayed with NHS England.

Ms Loveridge told Pulse on Tuesday evening that the bailiff had informed them that NHS England’s offices in Worcester had been sent six unanswered demands, between 3 March and 11 July.

She added that NHS England had informed the bailiffs that the practise would make the payment, which sparked the second visit.

She said: ‘This has been two completely wasted days. They wouldn’t back down and neither would the CCG, it was up to me to make the payment in the end.’

Paula Buckley, assistant director for customer services at the council, said: ‘We can confirm that our bailiffs visited a GP surgery today [Monday] for non-payment of business rates.

‘NHS England pays the business rates on behalf of GP surgeries and we are not sure what happened with the payment for this particular surgery. We have therefore asked the bailiffs to pause the process while we investigate.’

David Williams, lead director for commissioning at NHS England (West Midlands) said: ‘The commissioners were not aware of this outstanding payment. As soon as NHS England and Birmingham South Central CCG were made aware of the issue, it was immediately rectified and payment actioned.’

This is not the first time that practices have been threatened with repossessions because of NHS managers’ mistakes.

After NHS England were established, in the wake of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, practices in London received court summons threatening repossession and were threatened by bailiffs, after NHS England ‘failed to process payments’

And in Doncaster one in ten practices were sent court orders because of NHS England errors.

This story was updated at 10:30 on 3 August 2016