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Thousands of GPs threatened with ‘breach of contract’ notices over pensions industrial action

Exclusive Thousands of GPs have been threatened with contractual sanctions if they take industrial action on 21 June, in the first example of NHS managers cracking down on practices ahead of the BMA’s day of action over pensions.

All PCT clusters in London have sent letters to the capital’s 6,000 GPs, warning they expect all GPs to continue to deliver their contracts ‘in full’, and that any practice that fails to provide a service during core hours will be regarded as having been in ‘breach of contract’.

GPs that take action have been warned they run the risk of having certain contractual payments withheld if they are found in breach of contract.

The move comes after Pulse reported widespread confusion over whether GPs would face contractual or financial sanctions after taking industrial action, with most PCTs yet to decide what action they would take.

The move is the first example of managers taking a hard line on GP industrial action.

A letter from NHS North West London Cluster chief executive Anne Rainsbury, obtained by Pulse, tells GPs: ‘We expect all of our primary medical services contractors to continue to deliver the contract in full.

‘Although it is of course an individual’s right to take lawful industrial action, any GP practice that fails to provide a service during core hours on the day of action will be regarded as having been in breach of contract, even if the individual participating in that industrial action carries out the majority of work he or she would normally undertake.’

The letter goes on to say that even practices have a responsibility to meet the ‘reasonable needs’ of its patients during core hours and to ensure a full service is delivered ‘despite the actions of individuals employed by you to deliver those services’.

It adds: ‘Consequently the local NHS may also decide to withhold certain payments due to a contract holder by way of compensation for any breach should it occur. In addition, formal contract breach notices would be issued.’

NHS London confirmed that a copy of the same letter had been sent out by all PCT clusters in London. A spokesman said: ‘The letter has gone out more widely from all the clusters in London.’

Updated 14/06/12 – 10.25

Click here to read the full letter