GPs may be forced to continue unpaid work

Enhanced services that practices continue to provide for free could be legally reclassified as essential services, the GPC has warned.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Laurence Buckman
GPC deputy chairman Dr Laurence Buckman

As a result, practices could find themselves in breach of contract if they try to drop the work at a future date.

The GPC has found that there is a risk that services being carried out for free could become part of practices' 'custom and practice'. This would mean they are reclassified as essential services with practices facing legal action if they stop carrying out the work.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chairman, told GP: 'We have got a good idea that if you are working for nothing then you are making it part of your custom and practice. But, as yet, there is no legal position on this and it has not been tested in law.'

The concerns add further weight to BMA calls for practices to consider dropping work in protest over the GMS pay freeze.

A number of one-year directed enhanced services (DESs) ceased from 1 April across the UK, and have not yet been replaced. In Wales, all DESs ceased from that date. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, GPs are waiting for details of future DES funding.

In England, DESs, including that covering Choose and Book, are no longer nationally funded. Some LMCs have agreed local deals with primary care organisations (PCOs), but GPs in areas where this has not occurred have either stopped or are providing work for free.

Dr Buckman said the lack of legal clarity made it vital that practices 'seriously consider whether to carry on such work'.

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