Primary care trusts are not doing enough to stop GPs charging care homes for their services, the English Community Care Association has warned.
A survey conducted by the ECCA found that most PCTs were unaware that GPs were charging care homes “retainers” to provide health care to their residents.
Although more than 61% of PCTs responding to the survey agreed that GP retainer fees should be abolished, just over 10% reported having policies or guidance on the practice.
The results follow on from an ECCA report last year which revealed that some GPs had refused to register residents after the care home had declined to pay retainer fees, leading to fears that vulnerable older people were being left without health cover. On average, GPs are charging £7,000 a year in retainer fees, with some charging upwards of £24,000.
A confusion was also found over whether GPs were charging for “enhanced” services or for core services that should be provided free of charge. The survey revealed that nearly 86% of PCTs agreed that retainer fees should only be charged for the provision of enhanced services.
ECCA chief executive Martin Green said that PCTs were either ignorant of the situation or unwilling to ensure that care home residents received free primary care.
He added: “It is a scandal that some of the most vulnerable people in our community are being denied access to primary care services and we call upon PCTs to ensure that every single resident of their locality has access to free primary care.
“This is a fundamental right and one that is constantly being reiterated by politicians, but ignored by GPs and PCTs.”
ECCA: Care homes ‘forced to pay’ for free NHS care