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MPs propose central role for GPs in sexual health

PCTs are warning they may not be able to fund future rent rises on GP surgeries because of the shortage of Government money for premises.

Dozens of bids from GPs for building projects for 2005/6 have also been turned down as the cash shortage begins to bite harder.

Recent Government figures showed a 7 per cent overall fall in Government funding for premises since 1997.

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, said only three out of 23 proposed developments in the region had been given the go-ahead by trusts.

He added that even when GPs had managed to get permission to expand their prem-ises, PCTs had only promised to pay a proportion of the increased rent and this would decline over time.

Dr Watson said: 'There are people in dire premises who just cannot move. The sites are going to go because the

practices can't get the money and the PCTs don't have the money.'

Elsewhere, Huntingdonshire PCT only plans to give out less than 10 per cent of the funding practices have asked for. It is giving just £49,700 to three schemes, despite receiving eight applications for funding totalling more than £500,000.

Peter Whiteman, director of primary care at the trust, blamed the strategic health authority for failing to offer more premises money. He said the trust had had to take money from other budgets even to fund the three schemes.

In Cornwall, GPs have been left fuming after they were persuaded not to sign contracts with a developer because the trust had found funding through the LIFT scheme.

But despite bringing in architects to design new premises and spending thousands of pounds on plans, West Cornwall PCT then chose not include the projects as part of the LIFT development.

Dr David Carruthers, a GP in St Just, said: 'We've had our fingers burnt very badly. The whole thing was messy and difficult.

'We're bulging at the seams and we can't afford to do it on our own.'

The practice is now funding cosmetic and structural alterations to its existing premises, which had been postponed because the GPs believed they would get a new surgery.

By Rob Finch

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