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PCTs gain right to unilaterally axe PMS deals

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: PCTs will be able to unilaterally terminate PMS contracts from next month under new powers handed to them by the Government, Pulse can reveal.

Pulse understands the Department of Health is creating a stand-alone clause in PMS contract regulations allowing ‘without grounds' termination, to come into force on 1 April.

The move comes as the DH admitted NHS managers had demanded the right to ‘hire and fire' GPs.

Pressure from managers appears to be paying off, with lawyers seeing PMS practices across the country caving in and accepting contracts on dramatically reduced terms.

Law firm Lockharts warned: ‘It's increasingly likely PCTs will attempt to operate such a right, particularly with their current drive to reduce PMS spend.'

Daphne Robertson, principal partner at DR Solicitors, said: ‘It's what we feared, but thought they wouldn't dare make such a fundamental change.' She said the move would give an extra weapon to PCTs who had already been using the ‘implicit threat' of contract termination.

Some GPs had threatened to take legal action against contracts being rewritten, but Ms Robertson said most feel they have little choice but to sign.

She added: ‘Who will want to enter into contracts with the NHS now, when they can be rewritten at the stroke of a ministerial pen to suit the current political agenda?'

Dr Jane Lothian, secretary of Northumberland LMC, where PMS practices were forced to settle for big income cuts after being served termination notices two years ago, said: ‘The financial climate has made it much harder to fight these moves.'

Leaked discussions between the Department of Health and SHA directors – as part of the DH's quality, innovation, productivity and prevention programme – show mounting pressure from NHS managers to be able to ‘hire and fire GPs'.

Dr Jane Lothian