A Guide for GPs in Lancashire & Cumbria
LMCs would always recommend that where two or more GPs are practising together then there should be an up to date, signed partnership agreement which is reviewed regularly, say annually, as part of a partners’ meeting. Furthermore it is a good idea to ensure that any new partner signs the partnership agreement as part of the formal process of becoming a partner rather than be faced with a partnership renegotiation to meet the demands of the new partner.
In English law a partnership is not an entity distinct from the partners who at any time may compose it. The rights and liabilities of a partnership are the collection of the individual rights and liabilities of each of the partners. Therefore the relationship between partners requires the highest degree of trust. This is because partners are jointly and severally liable for their own and each other’s actions; for example, if one partner commits the partnership to incur a debt of £10,000, the partners may be sued jointly for the recovery of that debt, or any one partner may be sued individually for the whole debt (even though he or she was not the partner who entered into the contract).
Whilst acknowledging that it is costly, in terms of legal costs, to have a partnership agreement drafted, this pales into insignificance when faced with a partnership dispute in a “partnership at will”.
We would recommend that practices use the BMA Partnership Agreement Template and Questionnaire as a starting point, identify the points you agree on, those on which you don’t and then we can provide a list of specialist solicitors who can finalise your agreement. The more preparation you have done the less it should cost you. We would always recommend that you check the basis of charging with the lawyers at the first contact.
The LMC works with many practices to help them draw up a partnership agreement. Sadly we also work with practices when things go wrong, quite often as a result of a poorly worded partnership agreement, wrong interpretation of the agreement or no partnership agreement at all.