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Changes to GP sickness leave payments

From 1 April all practices in England and Wales are entitled to reimbursement payments towards the cost of providing cover for GPs who are off work through sickness for periods of two weeks or more.

Payments are no longer linked to the number of patients that the remaining doctors have to treat and practices can now provide cover using salaried GPs at the practice as well as locums.

Payments are no longer discretionary and will no longer be made on a pro rata basis. Payments will be the actual invoiced costs or the weekly maximum (£1,734.18 per week), whichever is lower.

This payment will apply from week three through to 26 weeks. After 26 weeks half the amount will be paid for a further 26 weeks.

Claims can be made by sending an application with invoiced costs and proof of absence (such as a fit note) to NHS England, or their health board in Wales.

The changes come into effect from 1 April 2017. If a GP has been on sick leave prior to 1 April 2017 and the period of absence will continue then that time can be counted towards the two-week qualification period.

The BMA says that the new rules do not necessarily mean practices will be able to cancel their sickness insurance and stress that this is a business decision that each practice will need to make itself.

Key points to note

  • There are no payments at all for the first two weeks on each occasion that a GP is absent.
  • The continuous two-week qualification period applies to every absence and does not carry over.
  • The reimbursement payments only cover GPs and not other practice staff.
  • The payments only cover core hours.
  • If a practice is using a GP who already works at the practice to cover the absence, this GP must not be working full-time and they can only provide cover to bring their own weekly commitment up to full-time.
  • Payments will only be made to cover salaried GPs where the practice is paying the GP their full salary under their contract while absent through sickness.

For more details see the BMA and NHS Employers' FAQ on sickness payments

Download details from BMA Wales

Scotland

The maximum payment for sickness leave for GPs in Scotland is also rising to £1,734.18 per week in line with maternity pay. Full details  are expected shortly.

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