Employment law expert Alison Graham, an associate at legal firm Veale Wasbrough Vizards, raised the issued at the Managing Change in General Practice conference in Bristol.
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 in contracts are commonplace and 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. In fact dentists top the list of professions who enforce such restrictions,’ she said.
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.’
Dr Lizzie Croton, a GP in Birmingham said such proposals didn’t surprise here. ‘It’s a sign of times,’ she said. ‘It makes me feel very uncomfortable.’
She added: ‘Patients may well follow a good GP, though. Maybe practices will have to work harder to hold on to patients.’