Vaccination sites received the first payments in February – worth around £70m in total – for a campaign that began in December, but GPs warned missing data had resulted in some practices being underpaid by thousands of pounds.
The BMA has said it is aware of ‘a number of PCNs’ who are still owed payments for vaccines they delivered weeks ago, despite raising their concerns early last month – and has warned that practices need this money urgently to pay staff to continue vaccinating.
NHS England has confirmed to GPonline that payments should be made to practices ‘this month’, and that a data processing problem behind the shortfall in pay has been rectified.
Primary care networks (PCNs) were asked last week to resubmit all data for January as part of this month’s declaration to ‘resolve the majority of discrepancies’ with payments.
GPs have also warned that problems with missing data have made recalling patients for second doses more ‘labour intensive’ as their teams use paper records to check all eligible patients are invited back.
Watford GP Dr Simon Hodes, a joint PCN lead for his practice, said his PCN had been underpaid. He said: ‘The problem is that there is a cashflow issue there, we’ve got to pay all our vaccinators and staff, but we have not been refunded for the work we have done. If you’re talking about months’ worth of work, it’s a significant amount of money.
‘To be underpaid for work you’ve done – it’s hard work and it’s more or less cost neutral for the practice. We are all busting a gut, working evenings and weekends, so we want to be able to pay staff on time.’
Dr Tim Cooper, clinical director of Whitewater Loddon PCN in Hampshire, suggested payment discrepancies could create problems for smaller sites. He said that the group of PCNs he is working with had been underpaid by £2,000.
He said: ‘It’s not insubstantial. Because we are a larger site doing high volume, we are slightly cushioned. I think if I were doing this at a PCN level I’d be feeling the pinch, and it would feel much more personal. But because we are a mass site, we have greater levels of income and it’s easier to cover your costs. So it has felt less impactful than it could have’.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey, said: ‘Of the more than 20m vaccinations now delivered, around three-quarters took place within general practice. With no payments made until mid-February, PCNs took on the financial risk for this huge undertaking. However, we are hearing from a number of PCNs that they are still owed payments for vaccines they’ve delivered, due to problems with data that first came to light at the beginning of last month.
‘This means some practices are yet to receive payments for vaccines they delivered weeks ago – funding that they rely on to pay the staff that are doing such an amazing job in delivering the vaccination campaign and protecting patients.’
He added: ‘They cannot be expected to run on goodwill for any longer. NHS England and Improvement must resolve this problem urgently, and assure PCNs that they will receive the correct payments for vaccines they’ve delivered in this month’s payment round.’
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘Due to a data processing issue, a very small proportion of payments to GPs for vaccinations given in January were delayed. The issue has been rectified and payments will be made this month.’