GPs must be prevented from poaching patients

GPs are being urged to insert post-termination clauses in new staff contracts to stop them poaching patients once practice boundaries disappear.

Dr Lizzie Croton: sign of the times
Dr Lizzie Croton: sign of the times

Employment law expert Alison Graham, an associate at legal firm Veale Wasbrough Vizards, raised the issue at the Managing Change in General Practice conference in Bristol last week.

She said that, when boundaries disappear, practices need to consider protecting their patient list should a GP, practice manager or partner leave and join a nearby practice.

'With patients free to move practices what you don't want is for staff to take information about the practice and your patients to another practice down the road. Practices need to consider what is there in place to stop a GP taking patients with them.'

She said that in other professions post termination clauses are commonplace and that practices have the same right to insert such clauses.

'For GPs it's an alien concept but the clauses are common place in dentist contracts.'

But she added: 'What you can't do is stop a GP from working but it is reasonable to place restrictions that are limited by time and geography.'

The DoH consulted on proposals to remove practice boundaries this year and will reveal plans in 2011.

Dr Lizzie Croton, a GP in Birmingham said such proposals didn't surprise her. 'It's a sign of times,' she said. 'It makes me feel uncomfortable. Alternatively, patients may follow a good GP. Maybe practices will have to work harder to hold on to patients.'

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