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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs who sell substandard surgeries set for windfall

GPs who sell substandard surgeries through NHS Lift could receive an unexpected windfall, it has been claimed.

The scheme ­ set up by the Government to improve poor GP premises ­ was primarily designed to help compensate GPs stuck in negative equity to move to better premises.

But with negative equity on the wane and property prices soaring, scheme organisers say GPs could make money by selling to their local NHS Lift or on the open market and

relocating to purpose-built premises owned by NHS Lift.

Kyn Aizlewood, project director of Sandwell NHS Lift in the West Midlands, said: 'GPs most interested in the first-wave projects who own their own properties want to cash in and liquidise assets.'

Mr Aizlewood said GP in

areas where prices had risen sharply could make 'serious money'. For others, the sum might have to be split between partners, but could still amount to a 'welcome nest-egg'.

Profit from sales will depend on local property trends, how long the mortgage has been held and whether the property requires significant conversion on sale.

Chris Wright, project co-ordinator for Manchester, Salford and Trafford NHS Lift, said: 'This is a means for GPs to realise their pension early which they are unlikely to do in the current climate. They can invest in the rest of their life.'

Project organisers at most of the six NHS Lift schemes said GPs were interested in selling or moving to new premises but were reluctant to invest in NHS Lift companies.

Peter Stansfield, project director of the Newcastle and north Tyneside scheme, said: 'GPs would be unlikely to want to invest in an unknown investment vehicle with no track record.'

Dr Ashwin Shah, a GP in east London moving in the scheme's second wave, said GPs in his area who had owned their practices for many years and were not in negative equity could make money.

How NHS Lift works

 · NHS Local Improvement Finance Trust (Lift) is a 20-year £1bn Government scheme to renovate or replace 3,000 substandard GP practices and create 750 one-stop health centres by 2007.

 · Local NHS Lift companies set up as partnerships between private developers, NHS and Partnerships for Health.

 · NHS Lift companies will own the premises they build and refurbish and lease accommodation to primary care.

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