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Exclusivity clause prevents all non-LIFT developments

Practices are being denied premises funding because NHS LIFT contracts specifically prevent PCTs from funding other developments, writes Helen Crump.

A standard exclusivity clause gives the LIFT company first option to develop premises in an area, preventing PCTs funding non-LIFT cost-rent improvements.

No PCT is understood to have altered the clause.

The clause's presence was revealed after a Cornish practice's plans to build a new surgery were scuppered. Its PCT said it would be in breach of its LIFT agreement to fund it.

Dr Russell Walshaw, a member of the GPC practice finance subcommittee, said it was

scandalous that all premises development may be tied to

LIFT's potentially high service charges.

'I was not aware PCTs were signing exclusivity clauses that precluded any other development,' he said. 'It's small print stuff really and until it rears its head you don't realise what's involved.'

Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator for premises, said: 'We don't believe there have been more than a handful of starts on new premises outside LIFT. It's been a complete famine.'

GPs at the St Austell practice had hoped a new surgery would be built on land owned by a hospice trust and had wanted to avoid involvement with the

bureaucracy of LIFT.

The hospice had agreed to meet the capital cost and GPs simply sought cost-rent reimbursement.

Dr Colan Robinson, senior partner at the Belmont Surgery, said his only other option was to fund the entire scheme without reimbursement for rent 'in an act of charity'.

He said: 'We've been stuck in a logjam. The LIFT company has acted in an unhelpful way.'

The LIFT company, Community First Cornwall, has been considering whether to take on the project since July last year. The practice has heard nothing since.

Central Cornwall PCT said it was disappointed it could not help.

A spokeswoman said: 'The practice is not restricted to LIFT, but the PCT is.'

Brian Johns, chief executive of Partnerships for Health, which oversees NHS LIFT, said no PCT had altered the exclusivity deal. 'Exclusivity is standard,' he said.

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