Our Team


PMS contractors and the BMA model contract

The BMA model contract is a topic we recently covered in our blog: ‘What is the BMA model contract and does it apply to me?’.

Many PMS contractors assume the need to provide such a contract does not apply to them. However, the issue isn’t quite so clear cut and this may be leading some practices to inadvertently put themselves at risk.

In this post, we look at the issue in more detail to help clear up any confusion.

Which PMS contractors does the BMA Model contract apply to?

While all GMS contractors must offer the BMA model employment contract – or ‘terms no less favourable’ – PMS contractors are only obliged to if it has been stated in their contract.

In our experience, problems arise when a practice is unaware what is written in its contract. This can lead to salaried GPs being employed on non-BMA model contracts, despite there being a contractual obligation to do so.

Any PMS contractor who has signed the NHS England Standard PMS Agreement 2015/16 will have the obligation, and indeed the majority of PMS contracts we have seen over the last few years include it.

Sometimes practices can accrue the obligation unwittingly. For example, if a practice has signed a new contract following a PMS review they may not realise that the clause has been included and that they should move all their salaried GP staff onto new employment contracts.

What are the implications?

If salaried GP staff believe they are being underpaid, or have the incorrect contractual provisions, then they may seek to take action.

Whilst there is some debate about who can enforce the BMA model contract clause, there is the potential for NHS England to issue a contractual breach notice if they become aware that a PMS contractor is not offering the terms they should.

Most PMS contracts have a clause preventing third parties (such as employees or patients) from enforcing the terms of the PMS contract, however we are aware that some do not. In this case it may be possible for an aggrieved employee to enforce the clause directly, which could lead to a successful claim for historic loss of earnings.

With changes in partnerships, mergers and super-partnerships, where any such liability actually falls would be a complex legal issue to resolve.

Our recommendations

If you’re a PMS contractor and you are not sure what your current status is, then start by looking at the most recent version of your contract. Check whether or not it specifies that you have an obligation to offer the BMA model contract.

If it does and you are in breach, then we would recommend you seek advice from a specialist legal team, who will be able to guide you on your options and the best way forward.

For more information, please contact Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 or email d.robertson@drsolicitors.com

Our Team


What can you do about inflated NHSPS service charges?

Around 1,500 GP practices in England currently operate from premises owned and managed by NHS Property Services (NHSPS). Many of these surgeries have now been contacted by NHSPS about entering into a new lease and are also facing demands for a highly inflated service charge.

The proposed service charge increases can be substantial, with charges reaching up to six figures in certain cases. So, it’s little surprise that we have been contacted by many practices who are extremely concerned about the impact the increased costs will have on their business.

The first point to bear in mind is that unless you have signed a lease and agreed to these charges, you shouldn’t feel immediately pressured and you may be within your rights to challenge them. There are also practical steps you can take that may help you negotiate with NHSPS and agree on a more manageable figure going forward.

Breaking down the costs

The invoices themselves are sometimes not very clear, as they simply lump all costs together. Begin by checking the backing sheet to break down the cost, so you’re clear on exactly what you are being charged for.

In accordance with the Premises Cost Directions, certain expenses are classed as ‘reimbursement costs’ and should sit outside the service charge. They are:

  • Rent
  • Rates
  • Clinical waste

Other elements may also be reimbursed in part, depending on what they include. Such as:

  • External repairs and maintenance for which the tenant has responsibility
  • Buildings insurance

The repair costs may not be recovered in full, as they depend on the District Valuer looking at the Current Market Rent figure. This will usually include an ‘uplift’ of a small percentage (usually around 5%) which includes reimbursement for these items but in practice may not cover the whole cost. That is why it is important to control service charges; as they often not fully recovered.

All remaining items will form part of the service charge, which will typically include landscaping, litter picking, gritting and the cleaning and lighting of common areas.

Action you can take

1. If you have a lease – Check what it says about your obligations in regard to payment, as the terms of the lease will ultimately prevail. If you have signed a lease and agreed to them, then you are legally obliged to pay in accordance with the lease terms. Check what the lease says about which services the landlord must provide, how the service charge costs are worked out and what the optional services are. Ideally, your lease may have a cap beyond which the landlord cannot charge.

2. If you don’t have a lease

Our recommendations

In this situation, there is no ‘one solution fits all’. While there has been some talk of a national resolution, nothing has yet materialised. It is difficult to imagine how a single solution can suit all practices, since this kind of approach is likely to generate winners and losers.

If you don’t have a lease in place, our advice is not to feel pressured to pay the inflated charge. Follow the steps we have outlined above and try to negotiate a more acceptable amount. Resist the temptation not to pay anything, however. The safest course of action will usually be to keep paying the amount you have historically paid, and get assistance to negotiate revised terms. Be careful not to sign or commit to anything until you have professional advice!

Also, be wary of time sensitive incentives, such as offers to pay legal fees or stamp duty land tax. Whilst these are nice to have, a one-off payment is unlikely to offset the impact of a large recurring annual service charge, so make sure you understand the cost/benefit.

For more information about NHSPS leases, or any other related issues, please contact Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 or email d.robertson@drsolicitors.com

  • Continue to pay what you have historically paid. Paying any more could set a new precedent and that’s something to be avoided as it may harm your negotiations if you decide to enter into a formal lease later. If you’ve been in occupation for a long period of time without a formal lease, then you may have a periodic tenancy that secures your rights. This could also be helpful when negotiating a service charge cap.
  • Consider starting a maintenance fund – Begin putting some money aside regularly, so you have built up a contingency pot should things get difficult in the future.
  • Negotiate – The final step is to try and negotiate an amount you can afford to pay and a service charge cap in your new lease. The advantage of having a cap will be the certainty it provides, but it does have the drawback that charges are likely to end up at that amount, so think about what you can afford going forward. If a cap cannot be agreed, the services and method of charging should be carefully reviewed – for example, any additional services should only be provided with your consent to the proposed costs.
Our Team


Ceasing contributions to the NHS Pension – what are the partnership implications?

There are many reasons why a partner may decide to stop contributing towards the NHS Pension – from 24hr retirement, to approaching the ceiling of the lifetime allowance, or simply deciding to make other pension arrangements.

At DR Solicitors we are receiving an increased number of enquiries from partnerships seeking clarity on this matter, as stopping contributions is becoming more common.

The good news is, it’s a relatively straightforward process. The key is to have an accountant who understands the NHS pension scheme and a Partnership Deed which correctly defines the allocation process.

The main areas that can sometimes lead to confusion are:

The role of NHSE

NHSE pays the contract sum to the practice net of estimated pension contributions. NHSE then pays these withheld contributions across to NHS Pensions. This payment is sometimes referred to as the ’employer contribution’ but this is incorrect. NHSE is simply paying across the partner contributions on behalf of the individual partners who are members of the scheme.

How pension contributions are treated in the accounts

If NHSE didn’t make these payments, the contract sum would be paid gross to the practice and the individual partners would make the contributions instead. A common mistake is to forget that practice income is not the monies actually received from NHSE, but rather the monies received PLUS the pension contributions withheld. It is this gross amount which should be shown in the accounts and split in profit sharing ratios.

The pension contributions should then be treated as an expense attributable to individual partners. As such, when a partner ceases to make contributions, the expense will disappear and so the net profits they receive will increase.

The only way this process can give rise to problems for a practice is if income is shown as the net amount received, rather than being grossed up with the withheld contributions. This would, however, be an error in the accounts and contrary to accounting policy.

A simple worked example

Imagine a two-partner practice operating with a 50/50 profit share, where Partner A contributes £100 towards the NHS pension and Partner B contributes nothing:

  • The practice receives £900 from NHSE (the contract sum minus £100 pension contribution)
  • Practice income = £1000
  • Partner A net profits = £400
  • Partner B net profits = £500

The Partnership Deed

The Partnership Deed simply needs to state that all pension contributions are an individual expense. It may also state that all income should be shown gross, but this is normal accounting policy so is not strictly necessary. There will be other circumstances that the deed needs to cover, such as dealing with over and under accruals on retirement, but that is a topic we will cover in more detail at a later date.

Our recommendations

Allocating pension contributions is an area that any specialist accountant should be familiar with, and only a poorly drafted Partnership Deed would get wrong, but if you’re at all unsure then please feel free to get in touch and we’d be happy to help you.

For more information, please contact Nils Christiansen on 01483 511555 or email n.christiansen@drsolicitors.com