NHS improvements to GP contracts don't fully address the cost of locum cover
In early February, NHS England announced a number of changes to GP contracts, one of which is to guarantee that they will reimburse the cost of hiring a locum to cover a GP's sickness absence.
From 1 April, 2017, they will pay up to £1,734.18 per week for the first 26 weeks of absence (except for the first two weeks), reducing by 50% to £867.09 from week 27 to week 52. This replaces the previous arrangment which was disrectionary and based on out-of-date eligibility criteria.
The good news is that at least part of the cost of hiring a locum will now be met by the NHS - but only part of it.
Going forward, you may not require as much cover under your Locum Insurance policy to meet your liability to provide a locum in respect of GP absence.
According to the BMA, this change "... should reduce locum insurance cover expenses, and enable practices to offer better sickness absence terms to salaried GPs."
Who covers the shortfall?
GPs will still usually be responsible for covering the shortfall. Depending on the resources available among colleagues to help fill the gap, and taking into account local rates for hiring a locum, there is likely to be a significant financial liability that still needs to be met.
Typically, the cost of covering eight sessions per week is around £2,800*, but, with regional variations, can be as much as £3,600. Sometimes even more.
However, it does not change the potential need to cover salaried GPs and other practice staff for sick pay and for other associated costs involved in paying for replacement staff, or extra hours worked by colleagues, in the event of their sickness absence.
The reduction in locum insurance costs may in fact enable you to broaden the cover you are able to provide for the practice, without increasing your premium.
At the time of writing, details such as the exact nature of payments and timing of reimbursement to practices is not totally clear.
The NHS have said that they are working with the General Practitioners Committee of the British Medical Association (BMA) to develop more detailed guidance. They have not said when this will be forthcoming, but we are in close contact with the BMA.
If you are considering amending or cancelling an existing policy with us in light of these changes, we recommend that you take advice before doing so.
Please contact your Wesleyan Financial Consultant or contact us direct by using one of the methods above.
*Medeconomics Survey of GP Locum earnings UK, October 2016