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eMed GP redundancy consultation ‘likely to be unlawful’ and ‘discriminatory’, claims BMA

eMed GP redundancy consultation ‘likely to be unlawful’ and ‘discriminatory’, claims BMA

Exclusive A redundancy consultation placing a significant number of GPs at risk of unemployment could be in breach of regulations and ‘indirectly discriminatory’, the BMA has claimed.

As revealed exclusively by Pulse last month, eMed – the new owner of GP at Hand – announced a large-scale redundancy process said to be affecting ‘mainly GPs’, with as many as 150 clinicians potentially at risk.

Now the doctors’ union said that the consultation could be in breach of regulations because it targets only GPs who are contracted to work 12 hours or less a week.

The BMA wrote to eMed’s chief medical officer Dr Matthew Noble to express concerns and call upon the company to ‘pause, reconsider and reset’ the definition of those involved in the consultation.

The letter, signed by head of BMA London James Steen, also pointed out that targeting that specific group of doctors ‘may constitute indirect discrimination’ as groups of people identifiable by protected characteristics are more likely to work fewer hours.

An eMed spokesperson responded to the BMA’s claims and told Pulse the process is ‘fully compliant’ with the company’s legal obligations.

The company also responded to rumours alleging that eMed intended to hand back its contract for GP at Hand, saying it ‘remains committed’ and has ‘absolutely no plans to hand back the contract’.

The BMA letter, seen by Pulse, said: ‘We understand that the company has explicitly stated its currently limiting its scope of those placed at risk of redundancy to GPs contracted to work 12 hours or under.

‘As you may know, it is highly likely to be unlawful to treat any employee working less than full time hours any less favourably than a fulltime employee, as enshrined in The Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.’

It added: ‘Statistically, those that work less than full time are far more likely to be women, due to our societal structures and perceived norms as to the responsibility of caring responsibilities.

‘It is therefore very possible that the company’s criteria as to who is in scope for potential redundancy may constitute indirect discrimination.

‘This approach therefore further exposes the company to yet more avoidable legal, financial and reputational risk, and we therefore reiterate our call for the company to reconsider.’

eMed previously confirmed that it launched a redundancy consultation affecting clinicians, but refused to confirm or deny the number of doctors involved.

It also stressed not only GPs were affected, and said it was ‘fully’ complying with legislative requirements surrounding redundancy processes.

In a second letter reiterating its concerns, the BMA also claimed that eMed managers stated in a formal consultation meeting that the company ‘objects’ to doctor representatives meeting with the BMA on a collective basis.

The union told eMed: ‘Whilst it borders on absurd to have to explain this, it sadly appears necessary to inform you that eMed does not own the doctors it employs and cannot dictate where they go or who they meet outside their working hours, including and especially in reference to their engagement with their independent trade union.’

BMA members told the union that the company ‘is refusing to release at-risk doctors from their clinical duties’ to attend their collective consultation meetings, ‘limiting’ their ability to ask questions of and to access to their doctor representatives.

The letter added: ‘Couple this with the company having excluded the rest of the medical workforce from the consultation, the fact that the mass redundancy of their medical colleagues will undoubtedly have a significant impact on their working lives.

‘Should eMed press ahead without altering its approach to avoid these breaches, it will do so knowingly, and it should consider that the BMA will pursue every viable claim against eMed arising from breaches of members rights and this flawed process.’

An eMed spokesperson told Pulse: ‘eMed is fully compliant with its legal obligations and has a good working relationship with the nominated employee representatives.

‘The BMA, which is not recognised by eMed and which not all clinicians are members of, has asked to be involved with the consultation process which eMed has declined on the basis that we are fully engaging with employee representatives who represent all types of clinicians who are at risk. 

‘We remain committed to GP at Hand and have absolutely no plans to hand back the contract.’

GP at Hand remains the largest NHS GP practice, having become the first practice in England to register more than 100,000 patients on a single list in 2022.

In January, a practice in Surrey said it is making three GPs redundant due to ‘new ways of working’, including the use of ARRS staff, and virtual rather than physical consultations.

And BMA England’s GP Committee chair Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer recently warned general practice has suddenly gone from a recruitment to an employment crisis.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Douglas Callow 8 April, 2024 11:33 pm

My legal team is bigger than yours