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I miss the time when PCTs looked to help practices, not to add burden to them

A few weeks ago the subject of my blog was the importance of cash flow and how practices are suffering with slower payments from their PCTs and how partners are having to keep more funds in their current accounts than ever before.


There is a small amount of hope that someone with some power and good sense gets to read this and do something about it, but this week a client sent on an email that just goes to reinforce the problem.

On December 15, NHS North Central London sent a letter to all Enfield practices. It says that practices 'currently have their business rates and water rates paid through a centralised account. From April 2012 this account will be closed and rates demands will be sent directly to practices. Practices will have to submit a claim for reimbursement within three months.'

The letter goes on: 'Reimbursement will assume that eligible practices have claimed Small Business Rates Relief'.

What this means is that at the moment, practices do not have to pay their rates and water rates and wait for reimbursement. This is a long established and helpful procedure and means that practices do not need to fund the gap between paying the rates and waiting for the reimbursement.

It surely cannot be saving the PCT any money (save the interest they make on holding on to the reimbursement) but does put the practice under more pressure. There was a time, and it was not that long ago, when PCTs looked to help practices, not to add burdens to them.

Now, what about this last condition: 'Reimbursements will assume eligible practices have claimed Small Business Rates Relief?' I have never come across this condition before. I can’t see it in the old Red Book and I can’t see it in the Statement of Financial Entitlements nor the Premises Directions 204. I have a horrible feeling that the real meaning of this line is 'we are only going to reimburse a proportion of your rates charge'.

You might think I am being unduly cynical, but these days...

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