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Does your Partnership Agreement need an upgrade? (Free health-check)

The pace of change in primary care has accelerated over the last few years, and with so much going on it is easy to forget the basics. If your Partnership Agreement fails any of the following tests it is probably time for an upgrade.

1.  Does it deal with the CQC?

It is a criminal offence to practise without a valid CQC membership, and the obligations on the CQC manager are onerous and personal. These risks must be dealt with in your Agreement as a collective practice responsibility as much as possible.

2.  Does it still mention the PCT?

Your GMS/PMS/APMS contract has been held by NHS England since April 2013 and your Partnership Agreement should no longer make any mention of the PCT. The consequences of the change include, amongst other things, the abolition of the PCT performers lists. These are often mentioned in partnership expulsion grounds and it is critical that these clauses are drafted very accurately to ensure they remain enforceable.

3.  Does it deal with your CCG membership?

Your CCG constitution will place obligations on the partnership, and it is important to set out how these will be dealt with. Your Partnership Agreement should also deal with the allocation of any monies received from the CCG, and the remuneration and cover associated with performing CCG work.

4.  Are all the current partners signatories?

All too often we find that partners have joined without signing the Partnership Agreement. This has the unfortunate effect of invalidating the old agreement and creating a partnership at will. This structure is inherently unstable, as it can be dissolved by any partner at any time and without notice. If a GP partnership is dissolved, the GMS or PMS contract is normally automatically terminated at the same time, causing the practice to come to an abrupt (and very expensive) end. In addition, practices which have not updated their deed may well have forgotten to tell the CQC about the change in partners. This can be a criminal offence.

5.  Does it deal with GP Federations & Networks?

If you are setting up a GP Federation or Network with neighbouring practices, this will have important implications on your partnership. For example, you will need to determine what happens to the shares on admission/retirement of a partner; what value to attribute to a share (if any); how to allocate the income/costs from the federation; how to make decisions about the federation, and so on.

6.  Are all the principal assets identified and valued?

Practices have started to collect assets which may have significant value. In addition to the traditional surgery freehold, it has become much more common to have interests in businesses such as pharmacies, federations, private clinics, non list-based healthcare contracts and so on. The basis of valuation of these assets should be set out in the partnership agreement to avoid expensive legal arguments in the future.

7.  Is there a compulsory retirement age?

These clauses were once very common, but are now generally deemed discriminatory and unenforceable. Procedures should instead be in defined to performance manage partners. Similar discrimination problems frequently arise in the drafting of maternity leave clauses.

8.  Is it up-to date on professional suspension?

The GMC can no longer suspend a practitioner: this is now the role of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service. As a suspension by the MPTS can leave a partner ineligible to hold a primary care contract, it is important that the partnership obligations and expulsion clauses in this area are kept up to date and valid.

We provide a FREE Partnership Agreement health-check – please contact Daphne Robertson if you wish to take advantage of this.

Posted on June 9th 2014 in News and Publications, Newsletters

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