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NI government to start recouping £35m COVID advance payments in May

The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) for Northern Ireland has said it will start recouping £35 million in advance payments for COVID-related costs from this month.

A total of £35m was awarded to contractors in Northern Ireland as an advance payment last year, “to recognise the particular service pressures being faced at that time with an unprecedented demand for prescriptions”, Joe Brogan, assistant director of integrated care at the HSCB said.

“A year on from that time, it is evident that this demand occurred at that particular time and volumes have now receded to normal levels,” Mr Brogan added in a letter to contractors sent last week (May 10).

Mr Brogan used the letter to confirm that pharmacy owners in the country will start repaying these costs from May, explaining that “retraction will commence at 1/48th of the advance made for a period of six months” and then “1/24th for the remaining 21 months”.

The government had originally sought to start reclaiming the advance payment over a 24-month period, beginning in April.

However, “while the current rates of infection have reduced, it is evident that COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come. The demand for prescriptions has returned to normal levels, but given that we have no certainty over how the pandemic may develop, it was decided to be more prudent in relation to reclaim of the advance”, Mr Brogan said in the letter.

The Business Services Organisation (BSO) will provide a schedule to each contract setting out the monthly reclaim amount, Mr Brogan added.

The letter included this example:

“Should the contractor sell the business during the reclaim period, the debt will be passed to the purchaser and the reclaim continue from the new contractor,” the letter added.


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