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Cash-flow shortage may hit GP premises improvements

GPs are raising concerns that cash-strapped primary care organisations will not have enough money to pay for premises improvements under the new contract.

A poll of GPs in Gloucestershire has shown 60 per cent of GPs want to make improvements to premises, far more than local trusts can afford.

GPC Scotland has also highlighted a gap between planned spending on premises in the second and third years of the contract and allocations by the Scottish Executive to local health boards.

The gap in 2005/6 stands at £5.1 million, according to the figures.

GPC practice premises sub-committee chair Dr Grant Kelly said problems with premises funding were emerging as a 'crunch issue'.

He said GPs had been expecting extra funding for premises after a virtual freeze on cost-rent improvements in recent years, but were unable to make plans because of lack of guidance and fears they would be shoe-horned into private finance schemes.

'Lots of money has been promised but we don't know what the cash limit is, or when the money will go out. I don't expect anything before next April and can only assume something will happen then,' he added. 'Most people want to improve so it's a rolling issue and the money needs to start flowing.'

Gloucestershire LMC secretary Dr John Peniket said 47 out of 78 practices in the county want to make improvements or build a new surgery.

'Such a high number of practices appear discontented. If they are serious there will be a big strain on resources to enable that to happen,' he said.

Premises upgrades first steps

 · Think about how to secure capital for improvement ­ such as NHS Lift, a third-party developer or cost-rent

 · Tell your PCO your intentions ­ it will at least help it to work out demand in the area

 · Let your strategic health authority know your intentions

 · Don't commit to any work without a written undertaking the from PCO it will pay rent on the improvement

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