Running a practice is a tough job and financial pressures are always top of mind. The NHS sickness reimbursements to cover GPs on sick leave were supposed to alleviate some of this stress. However, the numbers don’t always add up, and the experiences vary when trying to claim.
GP locum sickness reimbursements – how much you can claim
In England, during the 2019/20 year, you can claim up to £1,751.52 per week for the first 26 weeks of absence after a two week excess period. Figures are slightly less in other parts of the U.K. Practices can then claim half the amount for the second 26 week period – with the maximum being £875.76 per week.
If the cost to your practice to hire a locum is £1,500 per week, then this is the maximum you can claim in the first 26 weeks of cover. The second 26 weeks would be half this amount (£750) rather than the full £875.76, irrespective of if you are continuing to pay £1,500 per week.
The current rules
The rules around the scheme changed in 2017. The reimbursement is no longer discretionary, and you should be able to claim even if you have Locum insurance. Apart from a few clauses, such as rules around previous sick leave and the GP’s work cannot be covered by a nurse, there is little cause to reject a claim.
While not necessarily covering all costs, the reimbursement scheme can be a significant support to practices struggling to keep finances under control.
With the average hourly rate across all NHS locum doctors being £74.74, this would give a weekly cost of over £3,000. The reality is that the reimbursement scheme simply doesn’t supply the full support practices need.
The issue of long-term sick leave
The pressure on GPs is significant and workloads and mental health issues are often the cause for long-term sick leave in surgeries. When one doctor is on sick leave, the added pressure put on the remaining team significantly increases which in turn, leads to further sick leave.
In smaller practices, having just one GP off on long term sick leave will cause logistical and financial stress – adding more workloads to other doctors already struggling to keep up. Larger practices have the worry of several GPs being on sick lick at the same time.
To add to the headache of sick leave, some practices have found that their Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and Health Boards have treated their claims as discretionary or invalid based on outdated criteria.
The financial considerations of long-term sick leave
In essence, the reimbursement scheme covers your practice for some of the cost to hire a locum doctor in the even that a GP is off sick for more than two weeks. This scheme only applies to NHS medical practices and it only covers GPs.
If you have a GP unable to work due to illness, as well as salary, you also have to consider fulfilling ongoing commitments to your NHS contract and paying overheads such as mortgage or rent on your surgery.
It might also be that it’s a nurse or practice manager who is off sick – a key member of the team but not covered by the reimbursement scheme.
You may be under the impression that your practices are covered for your GPs being on long-term sick leave under an Income Protection or Permanent Health policy. However, these are for the doctor themselves – not your practice.
To protect your practice from the costs associated with long-term sick leave, you can choose Practice Overheads insurance.
As part of that, you can choose a top-up Locum insurance to bridge the gap between what the NHS pays and your true costs. You can also add on Key Person cover to compensate you for other key personnel if they are signed off work.
These policies can be tailored to your practices’ needs – you can change the excess time period before a pay-out kicks in, and you can change the length of time each person is covered for. This gives complete flexibility to get cover right for you.
Speak to All Med Pro
If you are unsure what insurances are right for your practice, speak to the All Med Pro team. We provide open and honest advice to our clients so that you have the peace of mind that you are protected at the right level.