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GP brings test case against PMS contract termination clause

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: A PMS GP has become the first to launch a legal challenge against a PCT's threat to unilaterally terminate his contract, in a case which could have huge implications for thousands of GPs across the country.

Pulse has learnt that the London GP has instructed lawyers to take action against NHS Havering, after it used draconian new powers brought in by the previous Government to allow trusts to unilaterally terminate contracts without having to provide justification. Since the controversial clause was introduced in March it has been used as a weapon in often brutal contractual renegotiations.

NHS Havering told PMS practices it planned to insert the new clause into their contracts and to terminate those contracts unless GPs agreed to up to a 40% reduction in their income.

The GP, who has asked to remain anonymous, has employed the same legal team who won a landmark battle on behalf of dentist Eddie Crouch in 2008, establishing it was illegal for PCTs to terminate the dentists' equivalent of a PMS contract without cause.

The latest case will challenge the Government's decision to re-assert the right to cancel contracts by inserting a specific new clause into them.

It is believed the GPC itself considered a legal challenge against the clause but decided not to fight it, although it hopes the new Government may yet put an end to the hounding of PMS practices.

A recent Pulse investigation found almost three-quarters of PCTs had begun reviewing PMS contracts or planned to do so shortly, with some aiming to save millions of pounds.

Many GPs have accepted huge cuts in funding, with some deciding to revert to GMS contracts.

Nicola Marchant, a solicitor representing the GP, told Pulse: ‘PCTs are currently sending notices to practitioners inviting the contractor to insert the new termination provision into the contract.'

'We are of the opinion the PCT is not entitled to insert the new termination clause. But if practitioners vary the contract by consent, they will be stuck with the consequences.'

A spokesperson for NHS Havering said: ‘The PCT has been carrying out a review of all PMS contracted GPs and can confirm a Havering GP has issued a legal challenge.'

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The way PCTs have been bullying GPs in this way by threatening to terminate their contracts flies completely in the face of the new Governments stated aim for changes to be driven by GPs and not imposed from above.'

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: PCTs have been bullying GPs with contract threats Dr Chaand Nagpaul: PCTs have been bullying GPs with contract threats