Rogers & Norton News

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Where have all the new GP’s gone?

Friday, October 14, 2016

GP Surgeries, both in Norfolk and nationally are only too aware of the severe difficulties recruiting and retaining GPs. There are one hundred and ten practices in Norfolk with around nine hundred doctors working at them – it is a constant challenge to maintain these numbers, never mind increase them, which is what is required to improve the service.

The Government has set out plans to recruit an extra 5,000 GPs nationally, this looks progressively more unlikely to happen in view of the increased numbers of GPs taking early retirement, difficulties filling Vocational Training Schemes and younger GPs being deterred from entering partnerships.

There is no doubt that there is a shortage of doctors who want to become a partner in a GP practice – mainly due to the risks involved with such a large commitment, with ever changing Government policies, alterations to funding and a somewhat uncertain future of their role within the NHS.

So what can be done to encourage new partners?

Firstly it is important to ensure that the partnership agreement is up to date and inline with current practices – if this is not the case then it could put off prospective new partners. A mutual assessment provision could also be included – this gives the flexibility to be able to determine each others suitability for the relationship ahead. It may also help to consider an initial twelve month fixed share contract that indemnifies pre existing liabilities.

State clearly what maternity/parental leave looks like, ensure provisions mirror as far as possible what employees are entitled to.

New partners could also be deterred by long or onerous surgery premises leases, they may not want to buy into the ownership of a freehold – the practice could plan ahead and look at ways to find an alternative buyer. It is also important to ensure, as far as possible, that the lease contains clauses that allow partners to be released on retirement, together with  a right to determine the lease if the NHS contract is lost.

A clearly defined exit strategy should be included, so that prospective new partners do not have the fear of being the ‘last man standing’. It also helps to include Personal liability indemnities in the partnership agreement; this negates any issues for the signatories to any leases.

Richard Etheridge Managing Director at Rogers & Norton commented – “I have acted for an ever expanding number of GP surgeries over the last few years and there is no doubt that it is becoming ever more challenging to attract the right quality of doctors to fill vacant posts. It is vital for the surgery to be able to demonstrate that the practice is soundly managed to reduce any concerns prospective new partners may have. With the ever changing and more difficult environment GP’s have to work within I am called upon to review and update the agreements to help protect all the parties involved on an increasingly regular basis”.   

Richard currently deals with a wide variety of issues for local surgeries including:

  • Merger of medical practices
  • Purchase and lease of commercial premises
  • Preparation of Partnership agreements
  • Partnership Retirements
  • Insurance claims
  • Employment advice & covenants

The team also deals with:

  • Contract disputes
  • Resolution of Partnership disputes & Personal Advice
  • NHS claims and disputes
  • HMRC Tax and VAT claims & Repayment schemes
  • Construction Contracts