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Leaked DH briefing gives PCTs licence to 'blackmail' practices over premises funding

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: The Government has given PCTs the green light to withhold premises funding when negotiating tougher GP contracts - in a move which the GPC described as 'tantamount to blackmail'.

A confidential Department of Health document, leaked to Pulse, urges trusts to examine how ‘premises funding can be used to lever change in other parts of the contract' as part of their wider commissioning strategy.

The controversial proposal follows a recent Pulse investigation which uncovered plans by NHS Worcestershire to cancel planned premises upgrades unless GPs agreed to offer a greater range of services, reduce their referral rates and drive down prescribing bills.

The estates strategy document, developed by the DH with Primary Care Commissioning, urges trusts to align their premises development with other strategic aims.

It says: ‘PCT primary care and estates functions will need to develop a joint understanding of how premises funding can be used to lever change in other parts of the contract.'

‘Supporting practices financially to improve their premises provides PCTs with the opportunity to negotiate for changes or improvements in other areas of service provision'.

Dr Russell Walshaw, chair of the GPC's practice finance subcommittee, and chief executive of the North Lincolnshire LMC, said the plans were ‘tantamount to blackmail'.

‘To say you can only have support for new or upgraded premises if you provide additional services is tantamount to blackmail, and doesn't actually address the issue of whether the practice has the capacity to provide extra services.'

‘This is a concept that we don't like at all. PCTs would be foolish to go down this route.'

Dr Catherine McGregor, a GP at one of the affected practices in Redditch, Worcestershire, said the move was ‘a foolproof way of not spending money on premises'.

‘To add in further performance parameters as a condition of getting a new surgery is not in the spirit of the new contract,' she said.

Dr Catherine McGregor: Briefing 'is not in the spirit of the new contract'

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