With the threat of cyber-attacks on the rise, coupled with a quickly evolving policy landscape when it comes to GDPR, data protection and information security, our Information Law Solicitor, David Sinclair, discusses with Ockham Healthcare what practices should be doing now to ready themselves, who should take responsibility for this critical area of work, and what to expect going forwards.
Regular readers of our blog will be aware of the Trust Registration Service and the recent requirement to register all ‘express trusts’. DR Solicitors have recently worked with the GPDF to help prepare guidance on the various trust relationships which exist in primary care, and the circumstances under which such trusts may be registerable. The guidance can be found in full on the GPDF website.
The guidance explains:
“A trust is a legal relationship by which one or more ‘Trustees’ hold and manage assets (such as money, investments, land or buildings) on behalf of one or more other people (the ‘Beneficiaries’), and may be created (whether expressly or by operation of law) for convenience or through necessity.
There are a significant number of trust relationships in primary care, generally created by necessity as a substitute for a ‘missing entity’ – particularly in the case of GP partnerships and Primary Care Networks (PCNs). The most common of these trust relationships relate to the ownership of a practice’s surgery, a PCN’s Bank Account, and shares held by GP partnerships in Federations or PCN companies.
Express trusts and taxable non-express trusts must now be registered with the Trust Registration Service (TRS), but the majority of such trusts in primary care settings will be able to benefit from an exemption for “public authorities” and will not need to be registered. In addition, a smaller number of such trusts will be able to benefit from an exemption for “legislative trusts”. It is therefore likely that only a small residual minority of primary care related trusts will need to register with the TRS.”
We recommend that all practices and PCNs read through the guidance to ensure that their particular trusts are likely to be covered by one of the exemptions, and for the minority of trust relationships which are not exempted to seek support from their professional advisers to assist in the registration process.
NHS England have recently published a template sub-contract for PCN DES services https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/subcontract-for-the-provision-of-services-related-to-the-network-contract-directed-enhanced-service-2022-23/
Many PCNs do not seem to realise that when buying in clinical services (as opposed to employing ARRS resources themselves) member practices are creating a sub-contract of their GMS/PMS/APMS contracts. This is true whether the supplier is a GP Federation, a PCN Company or an entirely separate third party.
Most PCNs rely on securing at least some of their resourcing from these providers, and yet many PCNs seem relaxed about documenting this significant relationship through informal SLAs, supplier provided contracts, wording in their PCN Schedules or in some cases, leaving the arrangement completely undocumented. In reality these sub-contracts are critically important in managing the risks for member practices, as a service delivery problem with a sub-contractor can lead directly to a breach of the GMS/PMS/APMS contracts of all the member practices. Having a poorly drafted or non-existent agreement might itself constitute a breach, since practices are required to include a number of important obligations in all sub-contracts to comply with their own contracts.
With the imminent transfer of responsibility for Enhanced Access, many PCNs will be looking to continue this service with the current providers, at least for the time being. This arrangement will also be a sub-contract and it may not be possible to continue the service provision in exactly the same way as before due to regulatory constraints. As a minimum however, a proper sub-contract should be put in place, and for those who have not already done so, the new NHS template PCN sub-contract would probably be a good starting point.
PCNs should bear in mind however that the published document is just a template, and like all templates it needs to be populated and tailored to the particular situation. It also needs to be amended to reflect the different requirements of each party: put bluntly, practices will want to ensure that as many of their risks as possible are passed on the sub-contractor, and the sub-contractor will want to achieve the opposite. It is important that this is taken into account when completing and negotiating the agreement. It is important to remember that, unlike GMS or PMS contracts, PCN sub-contracts are negotiable, need to be negotiated with the supplier, and the template might not suit all circumstances.
Whether or not you use the new template as a starting point, we would strongly recommend that you take specialist advice on all sub-contracting arrangements before entering into them.
For further information on sub-contracting or on any other legal issues, please contact Nils Christiansen on 01483 511555 or email email@example.com
The Trust Register was introduced in 2017 and at that time, no registration was required for those trusts which did not pay tax. New rules were introduced on 6 October 2020 as part of anti-money laundering and counter terrorism measures, which significantly extended the scope of the register. The deadline for registration is 1 September 2022, however the situation is complex and HMRC have only recently issued guidance on how the new rules will apply.
On the face of it, many practices and PCNs may unfortunately get impacted by the new rules. The underlying problem is that neither partnerships nor PCNs are legal entities which are capable of holding assets in their own name which forces them to hold assets in the names of nominees. In normal circumstances this nominee arrangement would be a ‘trust’ relationship, and therefore potentially subject to the new rules.
The three most obvious examples where trusts are commonly used by primary care medical practices are:
- GP Surgery premises where partners jointly own the freehold or long leasehold building(s):
- Shares held by a GP partnership in a GP Federation or PCN company
- PCN nominated bank accounts where a practice is holding funds on behalf of other PCN member practices
It is important to state that the position is still unclear and there is currently conflicting advice available. DR Solicitors are therefore contributing to the production of some national guidance for primary care, which we hope will be issued soon.
One of the reasons that the issue is receiving a great deal of publicity is that there are financial and criminal penalties for failing to register. However we would direct concerned practices to the website of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales which contains some helpful information from HMRC on initial failure to Register or late registration:
In recognition of the fact that the registration requirement is a new and unfamiliar obligation for many trustees, there will be no penalty for a first offence of failure to register or late registration of a trust. The exception is when that failure is shown to be due to deliberate behaviour on the part of the trustees. In that case, or where there are repeated failures, a £5,000 penalty may be charged per offence.
In practice, this means that, should HMRC become aware of a trust which has not been registered by the relevant deadline – either because that trust has been registered late or because HMRC has identified that trust’s existence by other means – HMRC may issue a warning letter to the trustee or agent. It would usually only charge a penalty if that letter were not acted on.
The website contains other relevant information and can be accessed at: https://www.icaew.com/insights/tax-news/2022/aug-2022/hmrc-updates-trs-manual-in-advance-of-1-september-deadline
We will be issuing more guidance on this subject very soon, so please stay subscribed to the blog.