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GP practice to launch legal challenge to offer private medical services

by Valeria Fiore
1 October 2018

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A GP practice is taking the initial steps to launch a legal challenge to open outside their contracted NHS hours.
New Forest Medical Group – a rural practice in Brockenhurst, Hampshire – is raising money to pay for solicitors’ work and has collected more than half of the total amount set as a target on its crowdfunding page in just over 24 hours.
GP partner Dr Matthew Davis is aiming to raise a legal challenge to part 19 of the GMS and the PMS contracts.
The contracts say that contractors cannot ask patients to pay for services, except those ‘prescribed by the contract, such as insurance report or travel vaccinations’, Dr Davies specified on his crowdfunding page.
The crowdfunding initiative, which was launched yesterday, will help Dr Davies pay for the work of solicitors and a barrister, who will be looking into whether ‘such a challenge would have sufficient prospects of success’, Dr Davies specified.
The practice has estimated a target of £5,000 to fund the solicitors’ work and since going live yesterday has already totalled more than £2,600.
A spokesman for NHS England  said: ‘NHS England is aware that a GP has launched a crowdfunding page to raise funds to cover his legal fees to review elements of the Standard General Medical Services contract. 
‘This is the contract, approved several years ago by the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS England),  the Department of Health and the British Medical Association, and  forms the basis of the arrangements of how GPs’ across England provide services to NHS patients.’
Why is the practice launching the challenge?
Dr Davies told Management in Practice that patients often approach the practice asking if they offer private services such as ‘longer appointments, cosmetic surgery or additional vaccinations not provided on the NHS’.
He added: ‘Patients frequently seem surprised when we have to give them addresses of private GP surgeries in Southampton, Winchester and Salisbury where they can obtain such services.’ 
On the crowdfunding website, he added that given the lack of funding being allocated to general practice – which has been promised only 7.1% of the NHS budget in 2018/19 – practices will have to find ‘sources of funding independent of the NHS’ to survive and continue to provide NHS services.
The RCGP has recently called for an extra £2.5bn to be given to general practice by 2020/21, in light of the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of an extra £20bn a year by 2023 to the NHS, which they deem essential
Support comments
Dr Davies said a great amount of support from GPs and practice managers.
Practices and GPs are among those who have donated to the crowdfunding page and have demonstrated their support through the site.
Thorpe Road Surgery, Peterborough, donated £100. The practice wrote: ‘Good luck, and contact us if you require assistance!’
Another donor said: ‘This could help save general practice.’
Admin insight
Dr Davies told Management in Practice that the skills set of both his practice and IT manager were valuable during the preparation stages for the challenge.
He said: ‘They have both helped me navigate the new world of social media, helping set up websites and Facebook pages, managing e-mail accounts and even trying to navigate the difficulties of setting up distribution lists on NHS.NET.
‘It’s also useful to have someone look at things from a different perspective and to be able to [forecast] the potential media interest and [think about] how the practice should deal with it.’
You can show your support for the practice’s initiative by visiting this website