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Can GPs Pursue Payment for Their Safeguarding Input?

on Wednesday, 08 July 2020.

In a recent judicial review, the High Court made obiter comments acknowledging that GPs are under a professional duty to provide safeguarding information, but confirming they are not under a legal obligation to do so...

...thereby potentially strengthening the position of GPs to demand payment for such work.

In June, the High Court issued its judgment in the case of R (British Medical Association) v Northamptonshire County Council and others [2020] EWHC 1664 (Admin). The BMA had sought to challenge the lawfulness of a safeguarding plan produced by Northamptonshire County Council, the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire and the two local CCGs, on the basis that it failed to specify a budget for payment to GPs for their input (safeguarding reports and attendance at safeguarding conferences). The BMA stated that its objective was to secure a ruling that GPs should be paid for their input.

The Outcome

The judicial review was dismissed and the substantive content of the judgment is of limited interest.  However, Justice Swift made a number of obiter comments which make for interesting reading and arguably strengthen the position of GPs to demand payment for safeguarding work. Obiter comments are comments made by a judge 'in passing', and which are not essential to the Court's decision. They do not create a binding precedent but they are persuasive.

In his obiter comments, Justice Swift outlined his view that:

  • None of the defendants lack the power to pay GPs for the provision of information for safeguarding investigations and case conferences.
  • Payments made to GPs under their NHS contracts do not cover the provision of information for safeguarding investigations and case conferences.
  • GPs are not under a legal obligation to provide information for safeguarding investigations and case conferences.
  • As acknowledged by the BMA, the above position does not affect the professional obligation of GPs to provide information for safeguarding investigations and case conferences.

Next Steps

Justice Swift did not go so far as to say that the defendants are obliged to pay GPs for their safeguarding work. He stated "Whether such an obligation arises would depend on the application of the ordinary common law principles of the law of contract and the law of restitution as they may apply from case to case."

The comments leave it open for GPs to pursue payment for their safeguarding input and the clarification provided by Justice Swift arguably strengthens their position to do so. 

The BMA has not yet indicated whether it intends to take its challenge further and/or approach it in a different manner.


We are experienced in advising GP practices regarding contractual matters. If you wish to discuss the possibility of pursuing a safeguarding partner for payment for provision of safeguarding information, please contact Rachel Crean (07387 025 973) or Mark Jarvis (07469 850 489) in our Healthcare team, or complete the form below.

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