General practitioner England

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Pay cut for locums during appraisals 'unfair'

GPs leaders have branded a decision to end payments to locums undergoing appraisals as ‘grossly unfair’.

Vicky WeeksThe BMA is requesting that NHS England urgently reconsiders its policy to cease paying GP locums for the working time they spend completing appraisals.

Until April 1, some PCTs used to pay locum GPs a fee for appraisal of around £300. NHS England’s area teams took over this role after implementation of the Health and Social Care Act.

But NHS England said last week it will no longer make these payments because all doctors now have a professional responsibility to undergo appraisals as part of revalidation.

GPC sessional GPs subcommittee chair Vicky Weeks (pictured above right) said the move was ‘completely unacceptable’ and should be reconsidered. Dr Weeks said the committee had received reports from some areas that payments were already stopping.

‘The BMA has repeatedly told NHS England that locums should not be financially penalised for taking part in appraisal, given that the time commitment involved in preparing for appraisal and the appraisal interview itself means time out of work for locum GPs. This comes at a time when changes to responsibility for paying locum employers’ pension contributions could leave locums further out of pocket,’ Dr Weeks said.

Fairness in question

She added: ‘We will be writing to NHS England urgently about this matter and telling them they need to reconsider a policy which is grossly unfair to hard-working locum GPs who are already under financial pressure.’

News of the policy came in a letter to all ROs (responsible officers) in England. ROs oversee revalidation at a local level and make the recommendation on whether doctors should retain their licences to practise.

Deputy medical director for England Mike Berwick writes that such payments were previously made to engage doctors when appraisals were a new process.

Dr Berwick adds: ‘NHS England is committed to providing appraisal to all doctors with a prescribed connection to us free of charge. However, it is NHS England’s view that direct payment to locums undergoing appraisal can no longer be supported. It is now every doctor’s professional responsibility to undergo appraisal as part of revalidation.

‘In exceptional cases, area teams, in cooperation with local practices, may support individual doctors where particular hardship is demonstrated.’