What are the legal implications of recent changes to the SFE?
Most GP practices will be aware of the recent changes to the Statement of Financial Entitlements (SFE), which came into force on 1 April 2017.
Since the revised SFE provides for both new income streams and changes to existing potential income streams, decisions need to be made as to how this additional income is to be allocated. These rules, once agreed, then need to be correctly documented.
We’ve highlighted below some of the key changes and what you need to consider from a legal perspective:
Reimbursement of CQC Fees
A system of direct reimbursement will be introduced whereby practices can submit their paid invoices to NHS England, or their CCG (under delegated commissioning) and will receive full reimbursement of the amount paid.
However, this raises two potential issues. Firstly, the practice has to pay the fees before it can claim a refund. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there is an assumption that the contractor is the CQC registered provider. This will usually be the case for GMS practices but arguably is not normally the case for PMS practices. This could be a source of dispute in due course.
Reimbursement of Indemnity insurance costs
Funds have been allocated to cover rising indemnity insurance costs. This money will be paid to practices on a per patient basis, but the intention is that the monies should go to whoever is paying the insurance premiums.
If practices pay for the PI cover for all their staff, they should keep the monies and share as they see fit. Normally, this would be between the partners in profit sharing ratios.
However, the situation is different if any GPs working at the practice pay for their own PI cover. The practice must then reimburse an appropriate proportion of that individual’s PI cover cost.
Depending on your circumstances, this could necessitate changes to your Partnership Agreement, employment contracts, and locum contracts.
Changes to GP retention Scheme
Improvements have been made to the GP retention scheme, whereby GPs who are planning on retiring (or who meet certain other criteria) are able to apply for retention monies as an incentive to stay in general practice.
If successful, these monies will be paid to the practice and partners will need to agree how the monies are to be shared. Normally, the individual will expect to take these monies as a prior share, but unless this is clearly agreed by all the partners, the default would be that the monies are shared in profit sharing ratios.
Changes to sickness absence payments
Changes have also been made in relation to sickness absence payments, which can be made for both locums (as previously) and now for the practice’s GPs covering each other. This seems a sensible change which may be helpful for many practices.
However, this scenario is often not contemplated in partnership agreements so could give rise to debate and conflict over how to fairly allocate the additional income.
We recommend that you consider the changes and assess their impact on your current processes. If there are any necessary changes (which we would expect there to be) you will need to review your existing partnership agreement and potentially your salaried GP contracts and locum contracts, to check they reflect what you have agreed.
Remember, if you don’t have a partnership agreement in place, or it is lacking in detail with regards to specific issues, then the legal position by default will be that everything is shared in established profit sharing ratios.
As an aside, while the SFE applies to GMS contracts by default, it will only apply to PMS contracts where the contract specifically states this. If you are in any doubt, you should check your PMS contract.
For more information about the impact of these changes, or any other enquiries, please contact Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org