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NHS Scotland’s COVID-19 bonus portal opens for claims

A maximum £500 bonus is being offered to primary care workers in Scotland, with a deadline for claims of 21 February 2021

optical equipment
Pexels/ Karolina Grabowska
The Scottish Government has announced that a one-off bonus payment will be offered to primary care contractors delivering NHS services during the pandemic, including optometrists and their teams.

The COVID-19 £500 bonus payment portal has now opened, with a deadline for practices to make claims on behalf of their teams by 21 February 2021.

The news follows an announcement made in November by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, stating that NHS workers would receive a bonus payment for their work to support the pandemic response.

In a recent PCA, the Scottish Government confirmed that the bonus, of a maximum £500 per person, is being offered to workers within independent service providers including community optometry, general practitioners, NHS dentists and community pharmacists. The offer will be available for individuals working in these settings at any time between 17 March and 30 November 2020, for a minimum of 30 continuous days during the period.

Within optometry, the payment will be available for community optometrists, their practice teams, administrative staff, and managers. This will include staff who have left NHS employment or retired after 17 March 2020. Practices will need to contact former employees or partners.

Locum optometrists will also be eligible for the payment where they meet the conditions.

The one-off payment is limited to a maximum of £500 per person for full-time staff, and a pro-rata amount for staff working part-time (less than 37.5 hours a week).

Eligibility will not be affected by periods spent on furlough, joining or leaving a service provider in the period outlined, sick leave, shielding or self-isolation.

Claiming the COVID-19 bonus

The PCA confirmed that service providers must submit one claim on behalf of the whole practice to Practitioner Services by 21 February. Claims received after the deadline will not be considered.

Claims will need to detail the Whole Time Equivalence for each person within the practice, ensuring the claim associated with each individual worker is accurate. The Practitioner & Counter Fraud Services will then determine the appropriate service provider payments and offer remittance advice, detailing amounts to be paid for each individual.

The payment will be made as a lump sum to the service provider in March 2021. It will then be their responsibility to disburse this to staff, the PCA added.

The NHS Bonus payment will be subject to income tax and National Insurance (NI), the Government confirmed, but to cover for the employers’ NI contributions, practices will receive an additional £69 above the maximum £500 bonus for staff.

Recommendations for locum optometrists

Individuals working as locums are eligible for the payment. The Government recommended locums discuss a claim being made on their behalf by a single contractor, reflecting their routine working commitment, and not including anything for which they are salaried by an NHS Board.

For locum optometrists who cannot have a claim made on their behalf, the Government confirmed that a separate claim form will be made available.