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Independents' Day

GP practice could face contract termination for closing early twice over Christmas break

Exclusive A GP practice faces having its contract terminated or being hit with alternative sanctions after being issued with two breach notices for closing early on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Managers at NHS England’s London area team revealed that one of the 12 practices known to have been served with a breach notice for closing early on Christmas Eve also closed early on New Year’s Eve, despite having been warned at the time that a further breach would give NHS England ‘grounds for serving notice on you terminating the contract’.

The practice, which has not been identified by managers, is understood to be appealing the breach notices. But GP leaders criticised the approach by the area team, warning that the row was diverting the attention of both managers and GPs from more pressing issues facing general practice.

NHS England’s London area team has been the only one to issue breach of contract notices for early closure on the two days, with practices in other areas anticipating little patient demand allowed to close their doors at 4pm.

A spokesperson for the London area team said: ‘NHS England phoned 237 practices on Christmas Eve, and subsequently issued 12 breach notices. The 12 practices which were issued breach notices for Christmas Eve were then phoned again on New Year’s Eve. One practice was found to be closed early and therefore in breach of their contract… [O]ne practice was found to be in breach of their contract, and this practice was served with an additional breach notice.’

Asked whether this meant a possible contract termination, the spokesperson said: ‘The breach notices issued are currently under review as part of the appeals process. If both breach notices are upheld, the situation will be reviewed and a decision will be made as to what will happen next. As the process is still ongoing we cannot comment any further on the situation at this stage.’

In its first breach of contract notice issued to the 12 practices which closed on Christmas Eve, the local area team warned that any future failure to open during core hours could potentially lead to contract termination.

It said: ‘NHS England requires you not to repeat the breaches identified in this notice. The effect of a breach notice is that if you: repeat the breaches that were the subject of the breach notice; or otherwise breach the contract resulting in either a remedial notice or a further breach notice, NHS England may have grounds for serving notice on you terminating the contract with effect from such date as may be specified in that notice.’

A Londonwide LMCs spokesperson said: ‘Londonwide LMCs will be supporting the practice and be part of any negotiations necessary should the breach notices be upheld. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time as this may disadvantage the practice in what is a live ongoing process at this stage.’

Dr Nigel Watson, chair of the GPC commissioning subcommittee and chief executive of Wessex LMCs, said there were more pressing issues for NHS managers to be concerned about.

He said: ‘I think there are really important issues going on in general practice, so I wouldn’t advice a practice or the area team to get into a battle about opening times. I think that is a fight, personally, that we don’t want to have. I’ve got practices who are literally struggling for survival and that’s what we want to be focusing our attention on - not whether we were open or closed on New Year or Christmas.’

Londonwide LMCs and BMA Law are supporting all 12 practices that were served with breach notices for closing early over Christmas in their appeals.

The NHS England London area team spokesperson said: ‘We are currently reviewing these appeals and will be writing to the practices to inform them of our response shortly.’

The row comes as an email leaked to Pulse revealed that NHS England staff were allowed to leave from 2pm on Christmas Eve.

Related images

  • christmas star credit Flickr Vicky Brock

Readers' comments (22)

  • Good luck to the practice concerned. Given how hard it is to run the service due to constant meddling and NHS England's total incompetence, they'd be forgiven for shutting up shop if given the option. Hopefully they own their own building - unfortunately NHS England will have to re-house the other patients. How sad for them.

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  • So can we all issue breach of contract notices to NHS England for the total mismanagement of the transition which lead to many practices not being paid on time. we didn't close shop because of lack of payments,so a bit of goodwill over the holiday period would have been reasonable. Mind you common sense and NHS England don't appear to go together.

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  • How can NHS England say this when they bunked off early on both those 'normal' working days. How does this affect practices who close regularly for Protected Learning Time events? I am assuming that those practices concerned did have emergency GP cover and the patients were not left with going to A+E.

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  • It is so regretable that "core culture changes" that the Francis report called for including freedom from oppressive or bullying management practices
    the statement that the care providor is professionally obliged and best placed to assess and assure safe delivery of care have not been embedded into NHS England 1 year later.

    don't normal do anonymous comment but then I don't normally have to deal with a bully.

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  • How to win friends and influence people?
    Christmas Eve early closing (breach notice "all a misunderstanding" (on whose part?)

    You wouldn't think NHS England had any need of GPs' cooperation, would you?

    Sharing the concerns of previous posters,

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  • NHS England failed to make our monthly contract payment this month and when I called them to arrange an expedited payment all the staff who could authorise this were on annual leave, on the same day! Not a service we would be allowed to offer.

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  • Why should a practice get away with it when the rest of us met the terms of our contract. Yes there is problems with NHS England and payments etc and NHS England is not fit for purpose but if you are not preaped to work to your contract get out!

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  • Have no sympathy for this practice and how foolish to have been warned on Christmas Eve and go ahead and do it again. but Pulse please find out where the directors of NHS England and London were on new year and christmas eve

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  • Should NOT have closed IMHO- we didn't. However, NHS England is filled with useless holders of non-jobs. Mainly previous PCT rejects. PCTs were the enemy of good care. NHSE is the same.

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  • *sigh*

    It's worth repeating I see: closing early is NOT a breach of contract. It does not say that a practice has to be available at ALL times in the GMS contract.

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