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Independents' Day

How can I retire from my singlehanded practice if no-one takes it over?

I am a singlehanded GP nearing retirement, but have struggled to find a candidate to take over my surgery. What should I do?

Nigel Watson square

Dr Nigel Watson: Disperse or merge your practice before you retire

The main option if you are retiring and have not taken on a partner is that you resign your practice contract. NHS England or your PCO would then have the choice of putting the contract out to tender or dispersing the practice list, meaning the practice’s patients would have to re-register with other local practices.

The problem with dispersion is the impact on other local practices, especially when general practice is under such pressure. This approach would also mean the retiring GP would be responsible for the redundancy payments for the practice staff and also for any issues related to premises.

If the practice went out to tender then the winner of the tender would be responsible for the staff under TUPE regulations.

If you don’t want to take this risk, you could look to merge with a local practice. If you are GMS, you could take on a partner from the practice you wanted to merge with so that, when you retired, there would be a partner remaining in the practice.

Remember, you could merge contracts with the permission of the area team or you could create an organisation that runs two separate contracts.

Talk to the LMC as soon as possible, as its leaders will be able to help and advise you.

It is also important to involve the area team or PCO to ensure that the process is as straightforward as possible, and inform them and your CCG (in England) of your plans (whatever they are) and seek their support at an early stage.

Dr Nigel Watson is chief executive of Wessex LMCs


Dr David Bailey, GPC Wales chair

Dr David Bailey: Don’t postpone your retirement

If I were a singlehander I would be considering joining a partnership where possible as this protects all your patients from list dispersal – perhaps to less convenient practices. It also protects you from the real risk of being left with unsaleable property or negative equity – particularly if the property is purpose built. My first point of call would be the LMC, then direct approaches to fellow local practices.

Careful consideration should be given to whether you amalgamate the practices. This might have implications for correction factor and also invite a challenge from the area team or health board who might consider it a new contract. The alternative is a looser federation where the same partners run both contracts, but the contracts remain separate. This allows economies of scale, but protects against reprocurement. It can be done in a single partnership, holding separate GMS contracts.

Postponing retirement would be a last resort as there are tax disincentives for many GPs to continuing in the pension scheme and many are considering retirement anyway in the face of unmanageable workload.

Dr David Bailey is a GP in Wales and a former chair of GPC Wales

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Readers' comments (7)

  • where is your practice based? I know a few GP's that are looking for a single handed surgery to take over.

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  • I think there is a deeper subject here.

    I think we need to create mechanisms by which the baton can be passed on.

    not all GP's are in a situation where we do not want partnership anymore. The model is certainly not dead.

    we did not sign up to GP training to work as locums or to be on the sidelines of primary care.

    the real danger is that if this becomes lost then primary care will cease as a speciality for doctors. doctors will lose confidence in primary care as a viable career.

    community medicine is becoming more complex and increasingly challenging and it needs doctors to help run and administer this.

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  • I work for an organisation the can offer bespoke succession planning for GPs. You can retire and still continue caring for patients without the pressures of managing the business side of things. If anyone's interested in hearing more give me a call on 0113 284 3158

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  • I HAVE done it and it worked out very well . take a partner and retire for 24 hours. ask partner that you will come back after 24 hours. you would work for 16 hours a week fo 1 calendar month then it is up to you if you want to continue few session or call it a day.
    other option is to make an nhs employe to be partner and retire and comeback.. if your gp partner continue then tell him to buy premises or share of premises. you need to continue to use premises. it will give you notional rent till you use it for general practice..

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  • "...mean the retiring GP would be responsible for the redundancy payments for the practice staff and also for any issues related to premises......"
    And what about the patients? They remain in the single handed practice for the personal service they receive. I was single handed PMS GP but PCT refused me taking on partner. I felt morally responsible for my pts and staff as I started my practice from scratch. Over the years pts became friends and some of them helped me about the premises and development bringing their 'expert' friends to advise me. Two local practices were happy to take over my patients but patients were not happy to move to new practice. I took hit & went GMS in 2012 took 24 hr retirement and with few hiccups got delightful/dedicated partner. Now we are two doctor(one and half really) practice still with small list but it has increased by 300 in last few months and still growing. We are old fashioned P practice, we kept our old appointment system rather than 8 O' clock rush of telephones/irate patients and harassed staff. We don't have this and I am glad for going from PMS to GMS taking hit with >£25000/- but which we will recoup that in future with increase list size and offering more services. We just renovated the premises giving my partner 50% equity with first refusal if & when I decide to sell my share. We have very good rating on NHS choices.
    Dr Watson. I hope you find as good a partner as mine so take a plunge before they close 24 hr retirement for single hander as you never know.
    Good luck

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  • Argil

    The suggestion from the anonymus GP seems to be a sensible one. I am sure you have already considered that option, but if your intention is made crystal clear from the beginning and you look around carefully openly talking with colleague locum GPs, you shall find the partner.

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  • Maybe a solution would be to sell the premises on auction and before the process begins to let interested parties get in touch with your selling agent. You can't sell goodwill but an auction is an auction and you get the highest price with healthcare providers vying if the premises are worthwhile. You can put a clause in the sale agreement that you would vacate premises on a certain day or take on a purchaser as a partner if it is a GP and either continue in some capacity or leave.
    While it is a question for individuals to decide who they sell premises to and preferably one would want the buyer to continue providing care; at retirement one has to think about one's old age and maximise profits - so it's a dilemma a lot of us will face.

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