Dr Nigel Watson: Disperse or merge your practice before you retire
The main option if you are retiring and have not taken on a partner is that you resign your practice contract. NHS England or your PCO would then have the choice of putting the contract out to tender or dispersing the practice list, meaning the practice’s patients would have to re-register with other local practices.
The problem with dispersion is the impact on other local practices, especially when general practice is under such pressure. This approach would also mean the retiring GP would be responsible for the redundancy payments for the practice staff and also for any issues related to premises.
If the practice went out to tender then the winner of the tender would be responsible for the staff under TUPE regulations.
If you don’t want to take this risk, you could look to merge with a local practice. If you are GMS, you could take on a partner from the practice you wanted to merge with so that, when you retired, there would be a partner remaining in the practice.
Remember, you could merge contracts with the permission of the area team or you could create an organisation that runs two separate contracts.
Talk to the LMC as soon as possible, as its leaders will be able to help and advise you.
It is also important to involve the area team or PCO to ensure that the process is as straightforward as possible, and inform them and your CCG (in England) of your plans (whatever they are) and seek their support at an early stage.
Dr Nigel Watson is chief executive of Wessex LMCs
Dr David Bailey: Don’t postpone your retirement
If I were a singlehander I would be considering joining a partnership where possible as this protects all your patients from list dispersal – perhaps to less convenient practices. It also protects you from the real risk of being left with unsaleable property or negative equity – particularly if the property is purpose built. My first point of call would be the LMC, then direct approaches to fellow local practices.
Careful consideration should be given to whether you amalgamate the practices. This might have implications for correction factor and also invite a challenge from the area team or health board who might consider it a new contract. The alternative is a looser federation where the same partners run both contracts, but the contracts remain separate. This allows economies of scale, but protects against reprocurement. It can be done in a single partnership, holding separate GMS contracts.
Postponing retirement would be a last resort as there are tax disincentives for many GPs to continuing in the pension scheme and many are considering retirement anyway in the face of unmanageable workload.
Dr David Bailey is a GP in Wales and a former chair of GPC Wales