What’s in your GDS contract?
General dental services (GDS) contracts are lengthy, complicated and dentists are, on the whole, not fully accustomed to the plethora of legal terms that can be found in them – and why should they be? Dentists have undertaken substantial training to care for patients’ teeth and oral health, not digest convoluted legal phrasing and contractual terms.
Which is why it is vitally important for any dental practice owner who holds a GDS contract to have a comprehensive understanding of all of the terms to which they have agreed.
Thus, it is imperative to take proper legal instruction from a professional who understands the ins and outs of dental contracts – and who can offer relevant advice and ongoing support.
With this in mind, let’s discuss some of the more important points that require careful deliberation.
Firstly, clause 14 of the GDS contract concerns whether or not the Contractor has elected to be regarded as a health service body. This status determines the processes that will be followed in the event of any contractual dispute, and while this electing to do so will not affect any other aspects of the contract, there are benefits to not doing so.
For example, if a Contractor does not elect to be regarded as a health service body, they will be free to choose either the NHS dispute procedure or to proceed through the Courts should any contract disputes arise – giving a Contractor more options in the long term.
Another good example of where careful consideration must be taken is in clauses 198-200, which concern the permission of sub-contracting under the GDS contract. These may be useful if the contract is to remain in the name of the individual holder, but performed by a company – and may be considered an alternative to having the contract vested in the company on incorporation.
Notice of this must be served to NHS England in accordance to clause 199 – which states that any required information be supplied as quickly as reasonably practicable. Be aware that NHS England may seek a formal contract variation as a result.
Thirdly, clause 339 of the GDS contract states that where a partnership contract reverts to an individual contract, the NHS England has the power to terminate in the event that, in its reasonable opinion, the change is likely to have a serious adverse impact on the ability of the provider to perform its obligations. This could include the fact that there will be fewer performers (e.g. dentists carrying out the units of dental activity (UDAs) following a change from partnership to individual). This is a particularly pertinent consideration should one of your partners be approaching retirement, or if serious illness threatens the current partnership. Either way, a contingency should be arranged with your lawyer to ensure you are fully prepared for any eventuality.
There are many more points that need to be addressed before you commit your signature to the contract.
Goodman Grant Solicitors are experienced, dental-specific lawyers that fully understand the minutiae of GDS contracts. Their expert team is prepared to answer questions regarding any of the specific clauses of the contract and can provide a useful checklist to ensure that everything is in order before you sign.
Paul Harris of Goodman Grant Lawyers for Dentists – a NASDAL member
A new director, Paul Harris joined Goodman Grant as a trainee solicitor in September 2010 and qualified to the Dental Team at the end of 2012. Paul works on a variety of dental matters relating predominantly to dental practice acquisitions and disposals – though he has an in depth understanding of all dental-legal issues that make him an indispensible member of the team