Covid-19 – Financial assistance for General Practice

As we all adjust to different routines and ways of working, it may be worth having a quick round up of the financial assistance available to General Practice as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. For General Practice, this may be from one of two sources; either the NHS through your commissioners, or the Treasury through the national schemes.

NHS funds

In his first budget, the Chancellor, Rishi, Sunak, promised a further £5 billion to the NHS and local authorities to tackle the virus. Whilst that figure may have to grow, it means that commissioners should have the wherewithal to allocate further funds to practices. In addition, Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive Officer on the NHS, has said “We will make sure that funding does not influence clinical decision making by ensuring that all GP practices in 2020/21 continue to be paid at rates that assume they would have continued to perform at the same levels from the beginning of the outbreak as they had done previously, including for the purposes of the Qualities and Outcomes Framework (QoF) and Enhanced Services (DES and LES) payments. CCGs should plan to make payments on this basis. NHSE/I will reimburse any additional costs as part of our wider finance agreement on Covid-19.”  That is an unequivocal statement and should reassure practices that help will be given.

Certain costs will have increased, particularly for IT and video consultation facilities with the encouragement of a ‘total triage’ system. Such IT systems are to be centrally funded through regional NHS teams.

Should you require more capacity for messaging, that would be through your local CCG, which itself can apply for additional funding to cover this.

It may be that further property capacity may be required, for instance to set up a ‘hot hub’ for local practices. It is expected in these circumstances that it is the commissioner that will enter into a short-term tenancy agreement with the landlord to facilitate this, so there should be no additional cost to practices to rent anywhere, but applications will need to be made to equip it.

Many will already have accessed the Easter Bank Holiday funds that my colleague, Lisa Pennington, has mentioned elsewhere in the Newswire.

Anecdotally, we are hearing commissioners considering funding of more diverse costs. One GP is very reluctant to return home as there are vulnerable people being shielded, so he is staying in a hotel close to his surgery. He is applying for funds to cover the hotel. So, the message is clear. If you do incur additional costs as a result of the outbreak, make a claim.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS or Furloughing)

This is the scheme that encourages employers that have either had to close their business or seen it negatively impacted by the virus to furlough (temporarily lay off) their staff and keep paying them. The Government will then reimburse the employer to the tune of 80% of the employee’s wages up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Employers may choose whether they pay the furloughed member in full during this period or limit the payment to the reimbursable amount of 80%.

The scheme is not designed for public sector bodies, which includes General Practice, as public services still need to be provided and contract money is still being paid. Where that funding remains, furloughing will not be permitted.

What about self-isolators and those who are being shielded? HMRC has indicated that General Practices may claim under the CJRS, but only if they meet the criteria bearing in mind the restrictions for public sector bodies.

In this situation it is most likely that additional costs incurred by practices to cover for staff who are shielding will be met from the NHS funding arrangements mentioned above

Practices can reclaim statutory sick pay when staff are ill or self-isolating.

The Government online system to claim reimbursement of furloughed wages is now up and running.

Small Business Grant

We have received news that a few very small practices have been awarded a taxable grant, being administered by local authorities, of £10,000. The practice must be in receipt of either Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rates Relief and the property must have a rateable value of £15,000 or less. This is unlikely to be the case for the vast majority of practices.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

This is something that, again, is unlikely to affect most GPs. This is for those who have lost income as a result of coronavirus. As General Practice income streams have been maintained, that is unlikely to be the case. HMRC are to examine tax records for 2016/17 to 2018/19 and will invite eligible taxpayers to make a claim. HMRC are aiming to contact taxpayers by the middle of May 2020. Those who have already seen their businesses affected are advised to apply for Universal Credit now. Should the Support Scheme pay then materialise, the Universal Credit will be reduced as the Support counts as income.

To be successful, taxable profit must be no more than £50,000 and must be more than half of a taxpayers total income in either:

  1. 2018/19, or
  2. The average of the three years 2016/17 to 2018/19

If the above is the case, HMRC will pay you 80% of the profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

Individual partners in GP practices may also benefit from being able to defer payment of their 31 July 2020 tax bill until 31 January 2021

Hopefully the above has provided an outline of what is out there, but please feel free to contact one of the team for further information.

How we can help

The Healthcare team at MHA Moore and Smalley is committed to providing regular updates for practices and clinicians in the current climate, and we will continue to offer our services to support you in any way we can in the upcoming months.

Should you have any queries about the information within this update, please do not hesitate to contact David Walker on 01253 404404. Alternatively, please email info@mooreandsmalley.co.uk and someone will get back to you.