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CCGs ‘requiring practice staff to sign inter-practice agreements’, lawyer claims

Exclusive: Clinical commissioning groups are requiring GP practice staff members to sign controversial inter-practice agreements committing them to follow CCG policy, one of the UK’s most senior medical lawyers has claimed.

Andrew Lockhart-Mirams, senior partner at Lockhart’s Solicitors, who has acted for the BMA on regulatory and contractual issues and helped draw up the nGMS contract, said he had received reports from four or five clients across the country that they were being encouraged to sign such agreements – with some worded in such a way that practice staff members and even cleaners could be asked to sign.

The GPC recently warned that some CCGs had already put in place ‘untried and unacceptable measures to micro-manage practices’, after reports of CCGs attempting to tie practices into draconian deals that placed an immediate onus on practices to agree to and implement CCG policies.

In November last year, North Staffordshire LMC described an inter-practice agreement drafted by Stoke on Trent CCG as ‘totally unacceptable’, and a ‘poorly drafted quasi-legal document’.

Mr Lockhart-Mirams, warned someagreements did not even provide a right of appeal for practices against expulsions for poor performance, and said it was ‘mad’ to expect staff to sign up to agreements which could mean they are partially responsible for decisions made by their employers.

He told Pulse: ‘Some of the documentation talks about the practice and the practice staff signing up. I would be totally and utterly opposed to the concept that practice staff should take part in this sort of agreement, even if the agreement itself were justified.

‘Where does “practice staff” end? The practice staff will presumably include cleaning staff, tea making staff, gardeners and all sorts of things. It would be like having a GMS contract and signing up the practice staff to it. Staff could be required to say whether they’ve supported the initiatives.’

Dr Nigel Watson, chair of the GPC’s commissioning and service development subcommittee, said asking practice staff to sign agreements was ‘ludicrous’: ‘It only needs to be signed by the partner, and certainly not be everybody.’