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Time to embarrass NHS England into paying GPs promptly

I had a distressed call from a GP client earlier this year, the practice did not have enough money in the bank to pay its bills. The partners had taken the drawings we recommended, had no extra drawings and yet they could not cover their financial commitments.

Having now completed the practice’s accounts I can see why. At March 2013, the practice had £75,000 in the bank and £40,000 of debtors (monies owed to them) while at March 2014 the practice had £25,000 in the bank and £80,000 of money owed. Like many practices, this surgery is suffering the consequences of not being paid properly or promptly by its NHS area team.

Another client of mine has had £9,500 of its income paid incorrectly into a former partner’s bank account. The NHS England area team is refusing to pay my client saying it is up to the practice to recover the money from the former partner, who is happily enjoying his retirement with a prolonged holiday in remote parts. What nonsense!

Just this week, secretary of state for business, innovation and skills Vince Cable was emphasising the importance of paying suppliers on time. So what can GPs do to encourage this? Well, there is an inexpensive way to embarrass the NHS into paying practices promptly.

The Prompt Payment Code is administered by the Institute of Credit Management on behalf of the Department for Business Innovation & Skills. Members who sign up to the code undertake to pay suppliers with terms agreed at the outset, do not change the payment terms retrospectively or unreasonably increase the length of the time they pay smaller companies. And guess what, if you click on the tab marked ‘signatories’ a whole host of NHS agencies appear.

So, if you are experiencing difficulties with getting paid, you could do worse than contact the Prompt Payment Code at and provide feedback, explaining your concerns. Better to raise the issue now than to find yourself unable to pay you bills further down the line.

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