A GP is suing a health authority chief executive in an attempt to prove he tried to lure patients away from his practice.

John Cormack, a GP in South Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford, has issued a writ against Graham Butland, chief executive of South Essex HA, and North Essex HA, which took over the responsibilities of the now defunct Essex family practitioner committee/ family health services authority.

Dr Cormack claims a complicated plot to lure patients away from his Greenwood surgery was formed in 1990 when one of its GPs indicated he wanted to move to Chelmsford.

He claims Mr Butland suggested that the GP should enter into a 'phoney partnership' with another practice in South Woodham Ferrers before his real plans were known so that his list of patients could be transferred to the second practice.

If the GP had simply moved out of the area, the list would have been retained by the Greenwood surgery.

'This sham arrangement is alleged to have existed on paper only, and was a temporary arrangement to facilitate the transfer of patients away from Dr Cormack's practice,' said a statement from his solicitors.

'It is accordingly argued by Dr Cormack that Mr Butland and the Essex FPC abused their statutory powers to advise, fund and regulate GP practices... to deliberately harm him.'

In practice, the transfer took place, but most patients then moved back to the Greenwood surgery. Dr Cormack claims he lost money in the process.

The defendants have already tried unsuccessfully at a hearing to have Dr Cormack's actions dismissed as 'frivolous and vexatious'.

The case is proceeding to trial, where Mr Butland said the allegations would be 'vigorously defended'. The two HAs will meet the legal bill.