Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what financial support he plans to allocate to (a) optometrists, (b) physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy clinics, (c) podiatrists and (d) other healthcare practices that are receiving near-zero patient income due to the covid-19 outbreak; and if he will make it his policy to exempt such healthcare practices from fees normally payable to their regulators. 
[Due for Answer on 29 April.]
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen): The Care Quality Commission (CQC) recognises this is a challenging and uncertain period for providers of health and social care, with some suspending their routine services, changing how services are delivered or developing and expanding their service to support the national response to COVID-19. The CQC are asking providers to contact them if they are facing any difficulties in paying CQC’s fees. In these circumstances the CQC will work constructively to find an appropriate solution. Additionally, to give providers in financial difficulty space during this period the CQC will not seek to recover aged debt for the next three months.
NHS England and NHS Improvement issued guidance on 1 April setting out that all routine NHS eye care services should be suspended during COVID-19 to ensure compliance with social distancing measures. Essential services will continue to be provided from a limited number of optical practices. NHS England and Improvement has committed to securing funding for NHS ophthalmic contractors based on average monthly NHS General Ophthalmic Services fees from the previous year. Where activity exceeds the average monthly costs, this will attract additional funding and be reimbursed in the usual way.
Practices are still able to access central Government support for the private element of their business, as can practices who have not been selected to provide essential eye care services.
Support available for private medical businesses includes a commitment to pay 80% of the regular monthly wages, up to £2,500, of furloughed workers for four months, via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), and help for the self-employed with the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), which will provide grants to those who are self-employed, or members of partnerships, worth 80% of their trading profits/partnership trading profits, also up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
Healthcare practices may also benefit from other measures, including:
- Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief;
- The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
- The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBL)
- VAT deferral for up to 12 months
- Through the Time To Pay scheme, businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, can receive support with their tax affairs
- Protection for commercial leaseholders against automatic forfeiture for non-payment until June 30, 2020
The Business Support website provides further information about how businesses can access the support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply: