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We're merging with a singlehanded practice. Do we have to consult patients about it?

My practice is intending to merge with a neighbouring single handed practice. We have written several letters to our PCT for their authorisation to this merger. After an interval of several months, they have now informed us that we have to engage with our patients regarding the proposed merger.

Our LMC have advised us that this is not necessary as there is not a substantial alteration to the GMS contract (both practices are GMS). The PCT are very vague in their guidance as to what is required as a consultation exercise but have suggested writing to the patients of both practices which would be a very expensive exercise.

We appreciate that we need to inform the patients of both practices of any new arrangements that will affect their care but do not understand what we are meant to consult with them about as the decision to merge is based on business needs but will result in an improved service to all patients in view of a planned premises build.

We have also spoken to another practice in our PCT who underwent a merger this year and they were not required to consult with patients prior to the merger. Can you please advise as to any definitive guidance anywhere that will assist us with obtaining the necessary approval from our PCT as we are hoping to merge in April of next year.

Andrew Lockhart-Mirams, Lockharts Solicitors

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