Simon Jones: The waiting game
Author: Simon Jones
When your business has had what’s most likely to have been the most turbulent year it has ever experienced, the last thing it needs is a double whammy of remuneration hold ups from contractors such as Primary Care Support England (PCSE) and Primary Eyecare Services (PES). But that’s what practitioners up and down the country are experiencing and it’s putting livelihoods at risk.
The delay in payments from PCSE to optical practices undertaking ophthalmic services on behalf of NHS England is the latest episode in a tumultuous period since outsourcing ‘specialist’ Capita was appointed by the NHS in 2015 in a deal worth £330m over seven years. In that time, optometrists, GPs, dentists and pharmacists have all felt the effects of Capita’s blunders.
Practitioners say the latest delays stem from recent changes in the GOS form submission system and poor performance of the PCSE portal for logging payment claims online. Some are experiencing part payments, while others are having claims rejected and delays stretching back months. You have to hand it to Capita, even the delays are on-brand – inconsistent. Maybe there’s solace in that the seven-year deal could be nearing its end.
These aren’t insignificant amounts of money either. One practice told me it was waiting on a five-figure sum. If you have plenty of private patients, that could be temporarily absorbed, but there are lots of practices out there for whom five-figures would make or break them.
Practitioners providing specialist services like Mecs and Cues are also finding that the Opera system used by PES isn’t hitting the right notes, with delays stretching back to last year. While the financial burden of remuneration delays for these services probably isn’t quite so severe for practices, the key issue here is that practices are starting to pull out of Mecs and Cues through PES, which reduces patients’ access to specialist care. And that’s a PR exercise the profession really could do without.