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GPs in legal battle against LMC over 'undemocratic' elections

A group of GPs are threatening legal action against their LMC in a dispute over allegations of 'undemocratic' elections.

The 13 GPs have accused Sunderland LMC of barring some candidates from an election after the vote had ended and deciding at an private 'extraordinary' meeting to elect remaining GPs in the ballot unopposed.

In a letter to GPC chair Dr John Chisholm, obtained by Pulse, the 13 GPs said the actions were 'manifestly unfair and clearly contrary to the LMC's own constitution'.

It added: 'A small number of doctors effectively cancelled the whole ballot process.'

The GPs said they intended to bring a civil suit against the LMC and seek a judicial review of its actions.

Sunderland LMC has been mired in internecine warfare since late last year after GPs accused it of failing to support two members – Dr Roger Ford and Dr Les Glass – in a dispute with Sunderland Teaching PCT. Eight GPs resigned in protest and refused to pay the voluntary levy.

Those GPs not paying the levy are at the centre of the new row after they were excluded from standing and voting in the elections.

Dr Paul Evans, one of the GPs affected, told Pulse the LMC had 'misquoted its own constitution'.

He said: 'The LMC has rejected the advice of its own lawyer and ignored the views of the regional GPC.

'Its behaviour is dishonourable to the profession. A small number of doctors are denying the democratic rights of the majority to elect who they want.'

A leaked memo from the GPC's lawyer Andrew Lockhart-Mirams appeared to back the GPs' stance. 'It seems to me that the candidates who wish to stand, but who have not paid their levy, are entitled to do so,' it concluded.

Dr Ken Megson, secretary of Northumberland and Tyne and Wear GPC, also told Pulse he did not support the LMC's stance.

But Dr Surya Patnaik, LMC secretary, said it had conducted the elections according to the constitution which states that PMS GPs who do not pay the levy are excluded.

'We are a democratic LMC and we observe the democratic process,' he said.

By Nerys Hairon

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