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GPs prepare legal challenges over PMS contract reviews

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: GPs are threatening court action to stop NHS managers imposing cuts in funding running into six figures as part of a nationwide programme of PMS contract reviews.

Almost three-quarters of PCTs have begun reviewing PMS contracts or will do so shortly, with some aiming to take millions of pounds out of general practice.

Some PMS GPs have been driven back to GMS contracts, while at other trusts GMS practices have been offered PMS contracts with tough new terms.

Of 44 PCTs responding to Freedom of Information requests, 32 said they had launched a review of PMS contracts or were about to do so.

But Pulse has learned that lawyers representing multiple PMS practices are threatening to challenge the moves in court, claiming trusts do not have the right to impose contract changes.

NHS Sheffield has given PMS GPs until this month to respond to plans to save up to £4.6m from contracts, telling GPs they can either revert to GMS, without the protection of an MPIG, or agree to funding cuts of £100,000 or more per practice.

Dr Trefor Roscoe, a GP in Sheffield and former GPC member, said: ‘The PCT is wrong if it thinks it has us over a barrel just because someone in Whitehall has decided trusts can make a bucketload of savings from GPs. This will have an impact on patient care and I will challenge it in court.’

Mark Jarvis, a lawyer for Lockharts Solicitors, said some trusts were dispensing with negotiation altogether and that he was working for a string of PMS clients to see if a legal challenge was possible: ‘I’m aware of at least two PCTs threatening to terminate contracts and we’re investigating the legality. This could very well end up being tested in the courts.’

NHS Salford said some of its practices were returning to GMS, after it gave them the option to quit PMS or accept a significant cut in funding.

In the North-East, Stockton on Tees Teaching, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland PCTs have begun PMS reviews, aiming to improve access and value for money.

In London, five PCTs have completed reviews with another 13 embarking on them.

Three trusts, NHS Wakefield, NHS Knowsley and NHS Lewisham, have acted on DH advice to offer new PMS contracts to GMS practices, but with tougher workload targets.

Laurence Slavin, an accountant at Ramsay Brown and Partners, said: ‘The contracts practices are being asked to sign are heavily biased in favour of the PCT.’

But Dr Tony Bentley, a GMS GP in Leicester, where the PCT is planning to cut millions off PMS contracts, said it was about time trusts looked to reduce funding inequalities.

‘Leicester City PCT is to be congratulated,’ he said.

Dr Trefor Roscoe: prepared to challenge contract reviews in court Dr Trefor Roscoe: prepared to challenge contract reviews in court