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Practices served with bailiff threats after NHS England failed to process payments

Exclusive Practices have been denied payments due to them because of chaos behind the scenes at NHS England, leading to some being issued with court summons threatening to take the GPs’ properties away, Pulse can reveal.

GPs in London have been left confused by the the way payments and reimbursements have been allocated since the abolition of PCTs in April, with several different organisations taking responsibility for different parts of the system, local leaders said, leaving them ‘tens of thousands of pound in the red’.

Because of the chaos behind the scenes since the April changes, GPs were unable to contact NHS London to claim the money they were owed for business rates of up to £28,000. This led to three practices being given court summons from councils, with one LMC leader telling Pulse they had been threatened with a visit from the bailiffs to confiscate items of value from the premises.

Although practices are beginning to receive money for the payment of business rates there are still unresolved issues around QOF and seniority payments, Londonwide LMCs has said.

Dr Sella Shanmugadasan, the leader of Tower Hamlets LMC, told Pulse:  ‘I had a shock recently because I received a court summons for non-payment of £28,000 of business rates. It was for money that was owed by our practice in Tower Hamlets, London to Tower Hamlets Council.’

The court summons threatened ‘that bailiffs could come to our premises to take away any items of value if we did not pay, and so if that happened it would effectively mean that we couldn’t run the practice’.

This had arisen because of the difficulties in contacting NHS London, he added.

He said: ‘Luckily we have been in touch with the council and sorted it out. We now no longer have to go to court. We have agreed to pay the amount to the council in seven monthly instalments of £4,000. NHS England has still not given us any money though, and we can only afford to give about two or three payments before we run out of money.’

Read Dr Sella Shanmugadasan’s full account here

Londonwide LMC medical director and Hillingdon GP Dr Tony Grewal said that GPs have found it very difficult figuring out who is paying them what and when, and attempts to contact local area teams by phone and email have often proved fruitless, he added.

Some practices have been ‘tens of thousands of pounds’ in the red because payments they had expected to arrive within a couple of weeks were not scheduled to reach them for another eight, said Dr Grewal.

‘It’s been a four-letter shambles,’ he added.  ‘Some of the money that GPs are paid goes through CCGs, some is with local authorities, some is with NHS England and the area teams, and some is probably in a waste paper basket at Enfield station.’

 ‘Some of the GPs have found out about the problem only when their bank manager has got in touch telling them they were massively overdrawn, and asking what they were going to do about it.’

The largest sums of ‘missing money’ have now arrived at the right place, but there are still plenty of unresolved issues surrounding GP challenges about QOF payment levels and some seniority payments, said Dr Grewal.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he knew of some other local areas that have had similar problems. ‘It is vital that this is sorted out because the delays can have a significant impact on practices. Area teams are outsourcing the administration of payments and so there is a remoteness that didn’t happen under PCTs. Before, GPs had a named person to contact about problems but now they don’t always know who to speak to.’

A spokesperson for NHS England in London said: ‘NHS England (London Area Teams) wrote to practices in May to clarify arrangements for reimbursement of rent and rate costs. A further clarification letter on this issue is being sent to practices this week. NHS England (London Area Teams) is not aware that court summons had been issued to any GPs, but would expect a practice to have raised concerns with us sooner for resolution, if they payments systems were indeed the cause of a difficulty of this degree.’

NHS area teams in London have apologised for the problems and stressed that GPs will be given better information on contacts and systems for processing and authorising payments.

A working group has been set up involving representatives from NHS England and Londonwide LMCS to give clarity on what is paid, when and by whom, said Dr Grewal.