Price fixing is a complex issue which needs careful thought when deciding to set up a locum chambers. The below guidance is based on the principles of competition law, as it relates to locum GP chambers, however it is advisable to seek individual legal advice based on your specific requirements and circumstances.
GP locums working as a chambers often agree a fee schedule or locum rates, and terms and conditions, removing the need for individual locums to negotiate rates.
Whether locums working as a chambers are seen as price-fixing and operating as a cartel is mainly dependent on whether they are considered to be a single undertaking (where a fixed price is permitted) or multiple undertakings (where price fixing is not permitted).
The main consideration when deciding if an entity is a single undertaking, is how payment is made. If payment is made from the practices to one place for all locums (ie a central chambers administration/joint bank account) then they are more likely to be regarded as a single undertaking. However, as stated below, only those who receive payment directly from a practice can superannuate that income.
If payment is made from practices to individual locum GPs then they are more likely to be considered to be multiple undertakings and therefore should not fix prices.
Some chambers choose not to fix prices and therefore the locum members are paid directly by the practice and can superannuate their income. This means that locum members negotiate their rates on an individual basis.
If you are thinking of joining a chambers you should investigate the setup of that chambers, what works best for you, understand the implications of joining and how to mitigate any risk.
If you are thinking about setting up a locum GP chambers it is advisable and important to seek legal advice about the specific set-up to ensure compliance with competition law.
Breaking competition law is a serious offence which can carry a fine of up to 10% of annual turnover, up to five years imprisonment, disqualification from managing a company for up to 15 years, and reputational damage to yourself and the chambers.
For further information, including how to identify and how to mitigate risk, please read this short guide to competition law risk.
About joining fees
Depending on how the chambers is set up there may be a joining fee, however the general expectation would be for a percentage of the fee for your work to be paid to the chambers, rather than a fee being payable to join.
Number of sessions
Whether there is a minimum or maximum number of sessions will depend on the rules within which the chambers operate, but we are aware that some chambers require members to work a minimum number of sessions per week.