By virtue of the “National Health Service Litigation Authority (Primary Medical Service – General Practice Systems of choice Primary Care Trust – Practice Agreement – Dispute Resolution) Directions 2008” (the Directions), which came into force on 8 August 2008, the NHS Litigation Authority (the authority) will exercise the functions of the Secretary of State (SoS) in respect of disputes referred to the SoS arising out of any General Practice Systems of Choice (GPSoC) PCT practice agreements.

The Directions provide that the authority will: 

• make a written request, within seven days of the dispute being referred, to both parties inviting representations to be made within two to four weeks supplying the non-referring party with any documents submitted;

• serve copies of the representations received on each party; and

• invite the parties to make written observations on the representations within two to four weeks.

The authority must then decide whether it will determine the matter or appoint an adjudicator. If the authority determines the matter it may:

• invite the parties to appear before them to make representations and, if it does do, provide them with a list of questions; and

• consult experts where relevant – allowing either party to make observations on the consultation outcome.

When considering any matter referred for resolution, the authority shall consider all representations and observations obtained as part of the process and shall use its discretion in determining the procedure of the dispute resolution so as to ensure the “just, expeditious, economical and final determination of the dispute”.

The authority shall record its findings in writing in the form of a notice of determination and serve the respective parties.

The directions can be accessed at the Department of Health.