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Planning to retire as a GP soon?

The unprecedented pressures on General Practice combined with the age profile of the profession are creating a wave of partner retirements. What should you be thinking of before drawing your pension and booking your extended holiday in the sun?

1. Transferral of your NHS contract

The way you go about transferring your NHS contract will depend on your contracting route. A GMS contract can only be transferred through a partnership agreement, so it is important there is a valid partnership agreement in place on your retirement date. If you are a single hander, you will need to go into partnership with another eligible person in order to transfer the contract to them. Changing to and from a single hander requires 28 days’ notice to NHS England.

A PMS contract can only be transferred with the consent of all parties, so NHS England will have to agree to it in writing, and they are able to refuse regardless of anything written in a partnership agreement. Remember that if you remain named on a primary care contract after retirement, you may find yourself held responsible for its delivery.

If you are planning a ’24 hour retirement’, you will need to ensure that you and your partner are both able to come off the contract and come back onto it again afterwards. This will require a carefully drafted partnership agreement and, in the case of a PMS contract, the consent of NHS England.

If you cannot find anyone to take over your contract upon retirement, you may ultimately need to give notice to NHS England. You should generally ensure that this is a minimum of six months’ notice.

2. The surgery

The next major issue is usually the fate of the surgery. A freehold surgery will probably need refinancing, and a lease will need assigning (transferring). Both transactions can be time-consuming and problematic as they require the consent of the bank or landlord. This may not be forthcoming unless you are able to find an acceptable replacement partner to take over your obligations.

An option being explored by many practices is a sale-and-leaseback, but these transactions take time and are not suitable for everyone. Legal assistance should always be sought for any transfer of property, and early planning is vital to minimise the tax implications of the transaction.

Remember to always get a professional valuation of a freehold disposal to avoid any allegations of a sale of goodwill, and ensure your name is removed from the land registry and any property ownership deeds or declaration of trust.

3. Other valuable assets

If you and your partners own any other valuable assets, such as shares in a GP Federation or an interest in a pharmacy, you may well also need to transfer these. These will need to be valued in accordance with your Shareholders’ Agreement, and finance may need to be raised to buy you out. You will then need to complete and sign a stock transfer form.

4. Your accounts

You will want to instruct your accountant to draw up a final set of accounts, and take particular care around the cut-off date used for annual payments such as the QOF, which should normally be spread equally over the year. It’s important to ensure that you have agreed who is liable for settling debts (or collecting credits such as superannuation overpayments) which fall due after your departure.

5. Housekeeping

Last but not least, you should ensure that you are no longer ‘held out’ as a partner by coming off the bank mandate, the website, the letterhead and the nameplate, and you may want to seek an indemnity from the ongoing partners against any future problems being attributed to you.

Once you have made sure that any other Partnership Agreement obligations are complied with (such as for example transferring appointments where possible), you can return the keys, attend the retirement party, and bid a final farewell to patients and colleagues.

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