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Contract could leave GPs trapped in bad partnerships

GPs in unhappy partnerships could be left 'high and dry' by the new contract as partners clash over the enhanced services their practice should provide, partnership experts warn.

Primary care organisations will no longer have to fund GPs who leave partnerships, potentially leaving unhappy partners with no escape route.

Paul Kendall, a GP accountant and partner at Dodd and Co, said the enhanced services section of the contract would make practice splits more likely. 'I can see problems if a more active, younger partner wants to take on as much as they can but some older partner might be happy with a certain level of income and happy with opting out.'

Ray Wilcox, head of NHS recruitment and training consultancy The Wilcox Partnership, said: 'At the moment individuals might just opt out of doing certain things, and if push comes to shove, they can walk away with their list. Post-2004, they won't have a list of patients or even a contract to take with them.'

The contract would force partners to hammer out the implications of working as a unit. 'That will be uncomfortable for many people ­ talking about whether a practice treats drug users or asylum seekers, or whether it grows in size.'

Cambridgeshire LMC chair Dr Ian Dumbelton said partnership splits could leave GPs 'high and dry'. 'If a partnership splits ­ especially if it is without the agreement of the PCT ­ that PCT may say "We don't need another practice in this area; we're not going to pay you anything",' said Dr Dumbelton, a GP in St Neots.

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