As a medical professional, you need specialist legal advice to protect your practice, especially during these challenging times for your profession. You need a law firm that understands the pressures you face and can give you proactive, imaginative advice that helps you stay ahead of the game.
How can our GP lawyers help?
At Lester Aldridge, we offer specialist legal advice within the healthcare sector. We understand the diverse range of pressures which the medical profession now faces and provide proactive and imaginative advice in response to these challenges.
Lester Aldridge has a large team of cross-disciplinary lawyers, which makes us one of the most significant specialist GP legal firms in the country. Our team has extensive experience in advising within the healthcare sector for many years.
Our solicitors work with GP practices and medical professionals nationwide and act for close to 100 surgeries.
GP Partnership Agreements
We are experienced in advising on GP partnership agreements within the NHS. We provide advice on key areas of GP partnership agreements including drawings, capital and profit share of each partner, decision making, roles, entitlements, procedures for appointment and retirement of partners and procedures to avoid partnership disputes. It is essential that a practice has a well-structured and comprehensive GP partnership agreement that is reviewed and renewed regularly to ensure it covers changes to the practice, staffing and legislative changes. Critical problems can arise when GP partnership agreements are not updated and when partnership changes occur, making it likely that the partnership is a “partnership at will” that can be dissolved by any partner without notice at any time! This can lead to avoidable financial losses and stress for the partners. Our experienced team of solicitors are able to help avoid these problems by advising you on your current GP partnership agreement and by providing support for drafting new GP partnership agreements.
Where a retirement from a partnership is contentious, it is important that advice on the terms of the partnership agreement is sought. This advice is crucial to minimise the risks of a successful challenge to an expulsion.
We have the relevant expertise in advising both partnerships and individual partners on all manner of expulsions, ranging from bankruptcy and misconduct through to poor performance and personality clashes.
Our specialist real estate lawyers have experience in advising on all property and planning law related matters, with particular experience in the care sector. Whether your practice is an “owner-occupied” practice or the partners are tenants under a lease, issues surrounding the premises from which the practice operates will be a major consideration for you.
With the release of funding under the Primary Care Infrastructure Fund, greater moves towards developing integrated care in primary care settings and the ever-increasing scrutiny (by CQC and others) taking appropriate specialist advice on GP premises whenever you are considering changes will be vital.
We have experience of advising owner-occupiers and intended owner-occupiers on:
- Financing or refinancing (including changing lenders or loan terms);
- Purchase or sale of premises which can involve changes in partnership and increasingly, sale and leaseback arrangements;
- Developing new premises and extending/redeveloping existing premises; and
- NHS premises grants.
We have experience of advising GP tenants on:
- Issues arising between the landlord and the practice;
- Changes to the terms of the lease;
- Alterations to the parties on the lease (such as following retirement of a named tenant); and
- NHS requirements for the lease for reimbursement of landlords.
See more about our Real Estate services.
Locum GP Employment Status
We provide advice across a whole range of employment matters including employment status, dismissals, employment contracts, restructuring, changing terms and conditions of employment, employment tribunal claims, discrimination and equal pay issues and whistleblowing. Employment status, particularly relating to locum GPs, is a common and current theme within the healthcare sector today. There are a range of factors that determine a locum GP’s status, not just the title the parties apply to the relationship on their paperwork being only one of them. These factors include the following:
- Regularity of the work;
- Personal service (can the locum send another to carry out their work?);
- Control (is the locum subject to daily supervision and the policies within the employee handbook?); and
- Mutuality of obligation (does the locum have to accept work from the practice?).
As a general rule, if a locum GP is working long term in a practice alongside salaried GPs and the difference in their status is indistinguishable to the outside observer, their true status is likely to be one of employment.
If a GP practice has got the employment status of a locum GP wrong, and a locum GP is found to be employed by the practice, HMRC may demand PAYE and unpaid national insurance contributions backdated to cover the period the GP has been practicing with the GP practice. This can lead to extremely costly problems and may even lead to the collapse of the practice. It is therefore crucially important to understand the employment status of all staff working within the practice. Our specialist employment solicitors have experience in advising clients on employment status.
Our Employment services.
CQC: Regulatory Compliance
All GP practices within England are regulated by CQC. This means you are subject to the requirements imposed by CQC’s registration system and you are also subject to regular inspections by CQC, which will result in a rating to your service. Over recent years, CQC has seemingly become tougher on GP practices and primary medical services and there has been an increase in enforcement action against services of these types.
We can advise you on both the registration requirements and how to achieve compliance with the relevant legislation. We have experience of advising traditional GP practices, as well as some well-known online GP services, which can face additional challenges as a result of the nature of their services.
We are also very experienced in defending enforcement action by CQC, including variation or cancellation of registration or prosecution, we can provide you with advice and representation to help protect your interests, should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation. [link]
GMC: Fitness to Practice
We also have experience of representing doctors in fitness to practice or professional misconduct proceedings before the General Medical Council (GMC). If concerns are raised about your personal performance, this can be an extremely worrying time, not least of all because your career and livelihood may depend on your continued registration with the GMC.
We can provide you with advice and assistance, and guide you through the process in order to protect your interests and help you achieve the best possible outcome. Find out more about professional disciplinary and fitness to practice services.
Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions
It is sadly not uncommon for GPs to find themselves facing allegations and criminal investigations, for a variety of reasons. The nature of the job means that it is sometimes necessary to carry out physical or intimate examinations of patients which can lead to allegations of inappropriate touching or sexual assault. Doctors can also find themselves faced with criminal investigations for a whole host of other matters, which may or may not be related to their medical role.
CQC is now taking more prosecutions against healthcare providers, whether you are facing allegations of inappropriate touching, physical assault, fraudulent prescribing, neglect, drug offences or even manslaughter, whatever the nature of the criminal investigation we are able to support you through the process. Our team includes experienced criminal law practitioners and we are able to support you throughout the process, from a PACE interview under caution, through to prosecution, if the need arises.
See more about how we can help with criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a range of factors that determine a locum GP’s status and the title the parties apply to the relationship on their paperwork is not one of them. These factors include the following: regularity of the work; personal service (can the locum send another to carry out their work?); control (is the locum subject to daily supervision and the policies within the employee handbook?); and mutuality of obligation (does the locum have to accept work from the practice?). As a general rule, if you are working long term in a practice alongside salaried GPs and the difference in your employment status is indistinguishable to the outside observer, your true status is likely to be one of employment.
The practice will be liable to pay arears of PAYE and employer’s NI that should have been deducted from the locum’s pay. Interest will also be payable and penalties may well be charged. In addition, if the locum is regarded as an employee for tax purposes, they will also be an employee for the purposes of employment rights. This means they can bring claims for arrears of holiday pay and have other employee rights.
When the GMC receives a complaint about a doctor, they will consider whether the complaint raises any issues about a doctor’s ability to practise safely or any threat to the public confidence in the profession. If there is a concern, the GMC will then open an investigation, which will involve collating information such as medical records and witness statements. If the concerns are serious, the GMC may refer the doctor to an Interim Orders Tribunal to try to restrict the doctor’s practise.
Once the GMC concludes its investigation, the case examiners will review the available evidence and decide how to proceed. One option available to the case examiners is to refer the matter to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) for a fitness to practise hearing.
If a Tribunal concludes that a doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired, there are a number of sanctions available to them at the conclusion of a hearing. These are:
- No further action
- Agree undertakings
- Impose conditions
A doctor may also be given a warning even if their fitness to practise is not found to be impaired by the Tribunal.
If a doctor has accepted a caution or is convicted of a criminal offence, they are required to inform the GMC without delay. Failure to disclose convictions or cautions without good reason may lead to disciplinary action.