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Don't sign new contract from NHS England, GPC advises

Exclusive GP leaders are urging practices not to sign a new version of the GMS contract circulated by NHS managers to at least 300 practices, warning that a ‘cock-up’ over the wording prohibits practices from taking legal action against their local area team.

The contract circulated by the West Midlands local area team has excluded the option – recommended by GPC – for practices to sign as non-NHS bodies. The main consequence of signing this, GP leaders say, is that practices waive their right to challenge any contractual disputes via the courts.

The GPC is currently investigating if this is a regional or national matter and whether the wording was intentional or a mistake.

NHS England admitted that an ‘erroneous’ contract had been sent out to some practices and it was up to GPs themselves to check for the mistake.

In an update to practices, the LMC said: ‘The LMC and GPC advice to practices has always been to elect NOT to be an NHS body, as if the practice elects to be an NHS body it forgoes its right to opt to have contract disputes dealt with through the courts rather than solely through the NHS disputes procedure.

‘It’s unclear at present whether this errant version of the contract has been sent, or is intended to be sent, to Birmingham practices, but if you have or do receive it then the LMC would strongly advise you not to sign it and return it to your CCG, requesting a version of the contract which allows you to opt out of NHS body status. Your CCG contract manager has been copied in to this message.’

Birmingham LMC executive secretary and head of the GPC’s contracts and regulation subcommittee Dr Robert Morley said the documents had been circulated across the whole West Midlands, including in Birmingham, Black Country, Solihull, Coventry, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, in the past weeks.

He told Pulse: ‘The NHS contract must give practices the choice of either opting to be an NHS body or opting not to be an NHS body and that is the wording that should be in the contract. Certainly some NHS England offices have sent a new contract out for practices to sign that doesn’t give them the option and simply obliges them to be an NHS body.

‘The relevance of this is that if you opt to be an NHS body then you are precluded from using the courts for any contract disputes, you must use the NHS disputes procedure. Whereas if you opt not to be an NHS body then you have the choice of going to the courts. That is the key issue and we have advised our practices that they must not sign this.’

Dr Morley said it was as yet unclear whether NHS England had made a mistake or was trying to change the contractual terms.

He said: ‘I am assuming that it is a cock-up but one does wonder whether someone is trying to slip this in through the backdoor, because it seems to be no coincidence that when a cock-up does happen it always seems to be in the direction of something that is more detrimental rather than beneficial to practices.’

The wording in the erroneous contract states that ‘[t]he Contractor has elected to be regarded as a health service body for the purposes of section 9 of the 2006 Act. Accordingly, this Contract is an NHS contract’.

However, the real contract gives signatories the opportunity to choose that ‘[t]he Contractor has [not] elected to be regarded as a health service body for the purposes of section 9 of the 2006 Act. Accordingly, this Contract is [not] an NHS contract’.

Acknowledging the error, NHS England said that for 114 practices in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country it had transferred over the existing NHS body status that was on their contract before reverting to GMS from PMS.

It said it ‘acknowledged’ this was ‘a decision that shouldn’t have been made on an assumption’ and said it would ‘work with any GP practice who want to amend their new GMS contracts via the contract variation process’.

Meanwhile, for 213 practices in the Coventry, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, NHS England said it was ‘a simple admin error on the contract that in the default, did not give the option for practices to decide whether they want to be an NHS body’.

A spokesperson said: ‘Again, we have offered practices the opportunity to amend this.’

The spokesperson added: ‘NHS England would like to stress that the new GMS contracts were not purposely manipulated to ensure GP practices agree to terms that they are not happy with. We will continue to work transparently with all practices to ensure they are happy with their contractual arrangements and ultimately, be content in their role to continue to provide high-quality patient care.’

NHS England said that it was ‘requesting that all practices that have received a new contract check the content prior to signing and returning to us’.

Readers' comments (20)

  • No point sending a contract issued by NHSE back to a CCG unless they have full delegation, they can't do anything about it...

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  • So the Area Team have made a mistake and have offered to correct it.......not sure that is much of a story and the scaremongering does no credit to Pulse.

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  • @10:48: It does because the stupid clauses put in the Contracts 'by error' are far too many.
    They can go to the extent of NHS Managers/NHSE using old templates for Contracts as my experience has shown and putting clauses nonsenscial, whimsical and stupid to the extent that even after signing them, you can actually bury them in a Court. GPs should read through every line and not having time is not a good enough reason not to do so.

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  • @10:48 Actually, if an Area Team has made a mistake, is owning up to it and putting it right, that's a contender for story of the year! As a Practice Manager, I feel that Area Teams certainly don't give any room to practices who make (human) errors; on the contrary, Area Teams seem hell-bent on detroying the good will of general practice and making our lives as painful as possible.

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  • The problem today is that GP's want the money but don't appear to want to provide any service.

    I have always supported GP's but now feel they do other jobs as their main role and work as GP's as a side line.

    There are ten GP's at my practice but not one of them work full time, they all have second jobs.

    I now feel all GP's should be contracted to the NHS on a full time basis or have the number of patients on their books reduced according to the number of hours they are available to se patients.

    where else do you get paid to provide a service whether you are available to provide it or not!

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  • I do not believe for one minute that this was a mistake.
    I have never heard of this choice, from a contracting authority or the BMA and have never had this choice, it's pros and cons, explained to me.
    What it tells me is that NHSE are scared of being sued so....
    Anyone who has any reason to sue them should consider doing so now.

    We are simply not treated in the same way as any other workers. Enough.

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  • @ 11.59am

    Since when were doctors not permitted to work part-time? GPs working full-time are the ones more likely to be burning out. The job of GP is punishing these days, you hardly blame, a day off for R&R or change of scene keeps us sane.

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  • OHP@11.59 - Eh?
    (a) Don't see the relevance and
    (b) It is becoming impossible to do this job "full time" (ie 50-60 hours a week) - often part-time (which you'd need to define in terms of hours rather than general description given that standard full-time is around 40 hours a week) plus outside, less demanding, interests is a way to survive. Moreover
    (c) If a cap in list size is introduced, I suspect there'll soon be an awful lot of patients with no GP

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  • Shurleea Harding | Other healthcare professional | 21 August 2015 11:59am

    another ignorant post. We GPs are worth more money than we're given at the moment, don't believe me? wait til we're all gone. And its more of a question about we're not being paid for the services that we already do provide. Do you think we want to do 2nd jobs or other sidelines apart from proper patient contact? everything else has been foisted upon us by above e.g. QOF, appraisal, et al. You want us to work more hours seeing patients? Get your politicians to stop giving us this shite then. and in which other job do you not have the choice about the hours you want to work??? do GPs deserve less rights then? Plus as above, a cap on list size would mean less patients get seen rather than more.

    If you have no clue about what being a GP is like, leave your comments to yourself

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  • Vinci Ho

    Error ? Not error?
    It is called 'testing the temperature of the water', mate.
    Nobody spotted it , happy days!!
    Got ya! So say sorry to you guys, no big deal .NHSE is here to help , always, don't be so serious......

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