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GP ‘contracted coronavirus’ while ‘paying to work’ for bankrupt company

Exclusive Locum GPs have been left unpaid after a company that ran practices they worked at has gone into liquidation, Pulse has learned.

One locum told Pulse they are owed almost £12,500 for work carried out this year at Soho Square general practice in central London, run by Living Care Medical Services Ltd.

The GP, who wished to remain anonymous, said they believe they contracted coronavirus while effectively ‘paying to work’ at the practice.

Living Care, which handed back its NHS contract on 31 March, has a ‘trail of debt’ totalling over £900,000 that spans ‘multiple sites and practices’, they said.

A spokesperson for the company said it was ‘unable to survive’ the ‘deeply challenging times’ and that their ‘thoughts are with all those affected’.

The anonymous locum told Pulse: ‘I have been told that the chances that any of the creditors will see any money is slim to none, leaving me facing the fact that I was actually paying to work at Soho Square from January to March [due to] transport fares and professional protection insurance. 

‘In early March, I was ill with typical Covid symptoms for about 10 days – before any testing was being offered to staff, so I likely contracted it on the frontline – while the whole time not being paid.’

They added that Living Care was ‘often very late in paying invoices’, but that they had put this down to ‘poor management’.

At least eight GPs are affected, with some unpaid invoices dating back to August, as well as other practice staff, they said.

Meanwhile, Living Care also owes £168,000 to NHS pensions, leaving many staff including ‘a dozen or more’ admin staff such as practice managers and receptionists ‘irate’, they added.

The anonymous locum told Pulse: ‘The thing that has felt the worst as time has gone by is the sense of injustice. I’m completely baffled by it. 

‘I kept thinking I must just be contacting the wrong institutions. Someone must be liable or accountable.’

A spokesperson for Living Care told Pulse: ‘It is with deepest regret that we confirm that LCMS has gone into liquidation. The company did its utmost to survive, however these are deeply troubling and challenging times and ultimately we were unable to survive.

‘Our thoughts are with all those affected and indeed with anyone who is going through a similar crisis during these unprecedented times.’

In 2018, Soho Square general practice was targeted by the CQC after complaints that non-English speaking patients were receiving sub-standard care because all Chinese-speaking GPs had left.

The practice, which was originally set up 20 years ago to serve the Chinatown community, was taken over by Yorkshire-based private operators Living Care Medical Services in August 2016.

It had previously made headlines in 2014 after patients campaigned against NHS England’s proposals to disperse the patient list across several neighbouring practices. 

It comes as GP charity the Cameron Fund told Pulse earlier this month that it has seen requests for financial support rise by more than 50% in 2020 compared with last year.

And Pulse revealed in May that locum GPs were forced to claim state benefits after struggles to find work during the pandemic.

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