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Competition body ‘monitoring situation’ following NAGP statement

Last week, the CCPC’s spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI): “At this point in time, the CCPC is monitoring the situation and should we become aware of any action being taken which could constitute a breach of competition law, we will act accordingly.”

The CCPC said it cannot comment on individual practices or indicate whether behaviour could constitute a breach of the law, as “only the Irish courts can determine whether a company, through its commercial actions, has breached Irish competition law”.

In a general comment, the CCPC said that typically under competition law, self-employed people are classified as ‘undertakings’ (ie, businesses that are engaged for gain in the provision of goods or services). Competition law “generally forbids all agreements that prevent, restrict or distort competition between businesses. In particular, it specifically prohibits agreements which directly or indirectly fix purchase or selling prices or any other trading conditions.

“Generally, where medical doctors are providing services to patients, each doctor (or medical partnership) should determine his or her own charges. Collective discussion and action between medical doctors in relation to the determination of such charges is prohibited by both Irish and EU competition law.”

The NAGP’s Budget Day (10 October) press release stated that it was “now considering some form of industrial action”, as general practice was “unsustainable” under current funding.

Responding to the statement, Minister for Health Simon Harris said the CCPC “might have a view in relation to collective action by people who are contractors. But on a much more serious note, I certainly hope it wouldn’t come to that”.

An NAGP spokesperson told MI it had written to Minister Harris “expressing our concerns and those of our members” and had “requested a meeting at his earliest convenience”.

NAGP CEO Mr Chris Goodey told MI “we are very mindful of our legal responsibilities” and any possible recommendation would relate to patient safety.

The Association said it is receiving legal advice and continuing its regional meetings to discuss the approach and next steps directly with members.

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