A letter from NHSE&I (NHS England and NHS Improvement) to GP practices says extra funding will be available for practices to submit claims to their clinical commissioning group for extra costs incurred for Bank Holiday opening over Easter and on 8 May, including staff and non-staff costs – unless this has already happened by local agreement.
Practices will be able to claim for the additional costs incurred in delivering additional services to care homes, additional clinical and non-clinical capacity, and additional consumable expenses including PPE (personal protective equipment).
The letter, from NHSEI medical director Nikita Kanani and primary care strategy and NHS contracts director Ed Waller, also makes some commitments on absence cover.
It says: ‘We previously advised that during the initial peak, practices should offer full pay to any staff taking COVID-19-related sick leave or staff who are shielding because they are at highest clinical risk from COVID-19 or have completed a risk assessment and been advised not to deliver face-to-face care and are unable to work remotely.
‘We can confirm that where it was required to maintain necessary clinical capacity and staff could not work at home, the cost of clinical and non-clinical cover will be reimbursed under the terms set out in the accompanying guidance, where practices have offered full pay to staff absent for COVID-19 related reasons. This will apply from 23 March to 31 July 2020.’
From 1 August, however, the normal contractual arrangements apply.
BMA GPs committee chair Richard Vautrey said the fund was overdue, and continuing support was needed.
He said: ‘After months of significant pressure and lobbying of the Government and NHSEI by the BMA, it is good to see the long-delayed COVID fund has been released. This long-overdue funding was needed to support practices that have been going above and beyond to continue caring for their patients in the face of a pandemic.
‘Hundreds of practices recently told us they were still waiting for reimbursement for additional expenses incurred during the COVID response for things such as taking on additional staff, including those needed to cover absences of team members who were shielding or self-isolating. So, these details around this financial support is welcome and commissioners now need to act swiftly to provide practices with this funding.
‘However, this package only covers until the end of July, and as we all know, the fight against COVID-19 is far from over. Both commissioners and NHSEI must guarantee that practices will continue to get all of the support and resources they need as we move into the latest phase of the pandemic.
‘Furthermore, DHSC must urgently give practices more details on how they will be reimbursed for extra PPE they have had to acquire when national supplies fell far short of what was needed.’