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Overpayment of Seniority to GP Partners

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It has been reported that NHS England have overpaid GPs £28.4m in seniority and is seeking legal advice as to whether these amounts can be clawed back. The consultation process regarding this is currently ongoing. 

Seniority payments were introduced as part of the GP contract changes in 2004 as a way of rewarding a GP partner for their experience. Amounts were paid quarterly to eligible GPs based on their years of reckonable service and pensionable earnings. To qualify, GPs had to have served in the NHS for eight years, and the average seniority payment received in 2015/16 was £5,033. The amount of seniority received increased based on the number of years of service. 

New applications for seniority ceased from 1 April 2014, and the scheme ended completely on 31 March 2020 with funds being transferred into the global sum. 

Payments made were based on the information from the estimate of pensionable profits form and an interim seniority figure determined by the NHS each year. The interim figure was used to determine whether estimated earnings would entitle a GP to receive full, 60% or nil seniority. If a GP’s earnings were expected to be less than 1/3 of the interim figure, no seniority would be due; between 1/3 and 2/3, 60% was paid, and over 2/3 full seniority was paid. 

On calculation by NHS England of average superannuable income and seniority payments, final seniority figures for each year were released. These final figures were used by NHS England to calculate the final seniority entitlement for each GP partner.  These amounts were compared to amounts already paid and any under/over payments were adjusted in the monthly contract. 

The final figures for 2019/20 were released on 13 April 2023. However, we understand that NHS England are yet to make adjustments for figures up to and including this date.   

GP practices may see balances being carried forward in their accounts where accountants have made provision for amounts expected to be paid or repaid.  There may be instances where some of these amounts relate to partners who are no longer at the practice. 

If NHS England adjust for these prior years, we anticipate that these additional payments or receipts would come through the monthly practice contract. We strongly advise that, if any such adjustments are made, you contact your accountant to review the figures. 

If an adjustment relates to a former partner and has not been provided for in the accounts, you may need to refer to your partnership agreement or take appropriate advice to determine who should receive or pay the amount due. 

If you have any questions on the content in this article, please contact your usual BHP Healthcare contact.