Lifeline for PMS practices offered by appeal ruling

PMS PCTs cancelling contracts may be acting 'beyond their powers'.

PCTs that cancel PMS contracts without significant cause are likely to be acting beyond their powers, solicitors have warned.

The warning comes as PCTs renegotiate PMS contracts across England in an attempt to control costs.

It follows an Appeal Court judgment in favour of a dentist, who took South Birmingham PCT to court over a clause in his personal dental services agreement that allowed the trust to cancel it by notice and without cause.

Lockharts Solicitors, who acted for the British Dental Association in the appeal, said: 'We believe the judgment is very likely to be applicable to termination under a PMS arrangement.'

The firm says paragraph 67 of the personal dental services deal, the key to the appeal, 'very closely mirrors' paragraph 100 of the PMS contract.

'PMS practices threatened with the termination of their PMS agreements under a "termination by notice" provision may be able to reject such a notice on the grounds that the PCT may be attempting to act beyond its powers,' a statement from the firm says.

Dr Richard Brown, a medical director at Surrey and Sussex LMCs, said: 'This ruling seems to indicate that a PMS contractor who challenged a unilateral termination without specific reason would have a very strong case.'

Dr Gary Calver, medical secretary at Kent LMC, added: 'The PCT has to give a significant reason for terminating the contract, as it would for a GMS contract.'

Mark Jarvis, a Lockharts solicitor who specialises in PMS, added: 'This will be pertinent this year. A lot of PMS practices are negotiating at the moment.'

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