Consortia 'have none of the protection afforded by statute' that PCTs enjoy, Londonwide LMCs said in Lighting the path, a guidance document.
Developing consortia 'may be regarded as being jointly and severally liable for any of their actions', the guidance said. It warned that GPs need to 'think carefully through the structure they adopt when taking on interim work from PCTs'.
Although the risk of liability may be low, 'one has to ask oneself if a liability were inadvertently created via a third party who would be liable and how would that liability be covered?' the guidance said.
Dr Tony Grewal, medical director of Londonwide LMCs said issues may arise when consortia implement Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) schemes. By implementing QIPP, consortia are 'delivering a service with a reduction to expenditure and practice income', he said.
Cuts are likely to disadvantage patients, he said. With drawing local enhanced services or reducing patient lists could put patients at risk, which could in turn cause a case for liability, he warned.
To avoid liability, consortia need written confirmation from their PCT that they are covered by indemnity, Dr Grewal added.
'Whenever GPs are employed by PCTs there is a need to confirm in writing that they are covered by the PCT's indemnity,' Dr Grewal said.
A number of developing consortia have been offered liability protection by being established as subcommittees of the PCT. But even in these cases 'it should not be taken for granted that liability is covered', the guidance said.
Once consortia become statutory bodies they will have 'the same indemnity as PCTs', GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey.