COVID-19: Considerations for purely private consultants contemplating offers of short-term employment
Many consultants have relinquished their private practice during the current emergency to return to support the NHS fulltime. Private providers have entered into contractual relationships with the Treasury whereby their facilities are NHS managed to support the treatment of patients diagnosed with COVID-19, and to deliver urgent care for NHS patients with other conditions. This means that PMIs and Hospital Providers, who still have capacity for private patients in need of urgent care, require consultants to fulfil these needs.
Some Providers are offering short-term fixed fee employment contracts to purely private consultants who have found themselves disenfranchised by the emergency arrangements.
FIPO supports the efforts needed to take on a national crisis and encourages consultants to do whatever possible to help.
Although private consultants may not be required in front line medicine some can, and many do, offer treatment to NHS patients in the private sector. However, as they are not employed by hospitals to do so, they will not have a continuation of normal pay, sick pay or pension contributions.
As the NHS has taken over their places of work, private consultants are now not able to earn any income, although costs and overheads such as indemnity, employment of admin teams and staff and rental of premises still remain.
There is no timeline offered and the NHS is not suggesting taking private doctors on in any form. Private practitioners have not really been considered in the plans or considered how they can contribute although approaches have been made.
Following the outbreak, it is going to be hard to start up private practise again and it is likely many practitioners in the private sector will go insolvent in this year.
It would be helpful to continue discussions about how they can help the effort and how they can continue to earn an income. In reality many hospitals would be able to allow some form of private access to the hospitals, even if it were only clinic room access. These spaces are likely to be unused and can be utilised in a safe way without influencing any other necessary activities, but a blanket ban seems to be the plan as the NHS hospitals, since taking over, do not want to be seen to be associated with private practitioners.
FIPO has received advice from a number of sources regarding the offers of employment and identified a number of issues that consultants contemplating these offers should consider:
Clarify whether you will be covered by the Provider’s indemnification arrangements or indemnity cover under the Coronavirus Act 2020. Please note that section 11 of the Coronavirus Act would only cover a consultant for clinical negligence claims (if that consultant was not otherwise covered by CNST) and so please do check with your MDO or broker that your pre-existing arrangements cover you for regulatory investigations or inquests.
Role and Function
Clarify exactly what service they wish you to provide during the emergency. Are they hiring you for your specialty expertise or will you be required to work outside of speciality?
Sick Pay and Death in Service Benefits
Clarify which of the usual employment benefits are provided by the offer.
Establish the terms of your relationship – will you be an employee or a contractor? The conditions and tax implications are profoundly different.
FIPO would like to reiterate its support for the efforts need to help address this national emergency and would encourage a dialogue between private providers, PMIs and private practitioners to ensure that both immediate and longer-term issues are addressed.
UPDATE: The Independent Practitioner Today (IPT) is offering free access to all who sign up for the free digital page-turn publication on their website www.independent-practitioner-today.co.uk
In addition there is free website access to all Covid-19 business related news, which is being frequently updated on the site.
Take care and stay safe.