There has been much discussion in recent years about the rise of private GP practices within primary care and it is a subject we are increasingly being asked about by our clients.
Setting up a private GP practice is a complex area and for anyone thinking of taking such a step, there are many issues that need consideration. The priority must always be to ensure compliance with the many regulatory barriers.
Here, we share the first of a series of blogs on this topic.
What are the rules?
The NHS regulations are very clear. A practice providing GMS, PMS or APMS list based services must not charge any of its patients for treatments - regardless of whether these treatments are available on the NHS or not. (There are a few limited exceptions to this rule, which most practices will be aware of).
Setting up a separate business vehicle (eg a limited company) to provide the services may appear a potential solution to this, but it is a risky strategy, as it is highly likely to breach the regulations.
So, what can you do to ensure you comply?
- Set up a distance away from your NHS practice
It’s critical you have robust processes in place to ensure that none of your private patients are registered on a list where you are the contractor.
The easiest way to do this is to set up your private practice well away from your NHS practice area. You will still need to undertake checks, but the risk of being in breach will be greatly reduced.
- Conduct thorough employee checks
You also need to undergo checks to ensure any GPs you employ or otherwise engage in the private practice, do not have an interest in an NHS list based contract. If they do, then you will need to extend your checks to cover these patient groups too.
One slightly grey area is where a locum GP is providing services for both an NHS practice and a private GP practice with overlapping patient lists. It’s certainly arguable that this breaks the rules, but as the regulations aren’t entirely clear it will depend upon the individual circumstances of each case.
- Make sure patient records are kept up to date
Data Protection rules will prevent you from using your NHS practice list to run your checks. You will, therefore, need to ask each private patient to confirm where they are registered and then have steps in place to ensure these records are kept up to date.
If you’re considering setting up in private practice, then bear in mind that the rules associated with this are complex and the consequences of getting it wrong are serious. That said, while the rules are strict, it is possible to put controls in place to ensure compliance. To help you navigate the process, we would always advise you seek the advice of specialist, professional advisers.
For more information, please contact Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 or email [email protected]