Addressing Unwelcome News of GP Seniority Overpayments

Topics covered: claims, GP Practice, mistaken payments, payment recovery

On 4 February 2022, Health Service Journal reported on prospective plans by the NHS to seek to recover alleged overpaid seniority payments to GPs. The sensational but concerning epithet “claw back” is used.

“Claw back” suggests recovery by any means that may include recovery by steps other than formal legal action. Such action would give an opportunity for challenge and defence.

Monies paid by mistake are repayable as a matter of right. Delays in repayment may result in significant interest charges. Remember, retaining funds paid in error with knowledge may result in allegations of serious wrongdoing.

The ability to recover mistaken payments by legal action may be time barred. Those bars do not apply where recovery is achieved by means other than legal action e.g. set off in a running account

A sudden reduction in expected payments may cause very significant difficulties even if justified. Those payments will be relied upon as a reserve to meet day to day operational expenses. Such deductions may place practices under financial strain at what is already a difficult time.

 One hopes that individual repayment claims would be announced with details of calculations well in advance of payment being taken. This may not occur and the first knowledge may be a hole in cash flow.

Knowledge is vital. Finance managers should carefully analyse any shortfalls in payment and immediately seek clarification. Deductions will be immediate. Recovery may be slow and frustrating.

Challenges of substance or detailed calculations should be made promptly. Do not just trust the word of NHS accountants. They do not have a sparkling good record of getting these matters correct. Public sector computer calculation errors are well known. Check carefully whether or not the substantial basis for alleged overpayments is sound and made on clear principles.

HSJ suggest that GP practices may have been generously funding expenses which should have been for the NHSE account. If this is the case, then counterclaims can be established to help offset the losses. There may also be other claims that day to day pressures have led to have very low priority. Intensify those priorities.

Whilst an overpayment must be repaid, there may well be a variety of ways of mitigating or extinguishing the loss by counter argument.  Any practice found with such a troublesome scenario must take any prompt action to identify the issues and select remedies.

Paul Ridout

Managing Director, Solicitor

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