As PCNs mould their operating models to suit both their individuals and local needs, they’re increasingly turning to third-party providers. The benefits of this partnership range from the movement of risk and liability, to limited liability entities (particularly when employing additional staff funded under the DES), and finally, the creation of a strong, local representative voice for all networks in the wider system.
Whilst the benefits are many, it is important to remember that these are distinct arrangements with third party providers. Consequently, and as you would expect with any provider of services for your individual practices, there needs absolute clarity over the terms upon which the relevant third party will work with your PCN. Whether these are recorded in each PCNs Network Agreement or within a stand-alone sub contract or service level agreement, if you are considering using a third-party provider (or indeed are a third-party provider looking to support PCNs) you should be discussing and documenting the terms applicable to the working relationship. As an example, these will include:
- the length of the arrangement
- the services to be provided
- the obligations on all parties (access to staff, premises, etc.)
- the costs for providing the services
- the handling of liabilities
- the termination provisions
- the provisions documenting the consequences of termination
In considering these points, we would recommend a recognition of the evolving and potentially finite nature of the PCN DES. The DES specification is and will change and there is always the possibility that practices may decide to walk away from the arrangements. With this being the case, any sub contract arrangement that is put in place by or with a PCN should be flexible (in the sense that it should allow the services being delivered to evolve over time) and must have due regard to the fact that in a situation if the DES contract were to come to an end these sub contract arrangements may also need to be determined.
Ultimately, it is about certainty on terms. If you have further questions or need support on this, BMA Law will be at the upcoming PCN Conference 2020 on 8 February. You can also contact BMA directly.
Rob Day is a consultant lawyer working for BMA Law