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NHS Lift condemned as 'costly' flop

NHS Lift is too expensive, overly bureaucratic and fails to deliver good enough GP premises, two damning reports conclude.

A review of Lift in three pilot areas in London found most PCTs had 'expressed concerns about the affordability of the programme', writes Ian Cameron.

PCTs also believed it was 'inherently more costly' than other methods of developing GP premises.

Buildings built via the public-private Lift scheme also made poor use of design and space and did not encourage innovative working by practices, the report by North East London strategic health authority found.

At least two PCTs involved in the first wave of Lift, Redbridge and Waltham Forest, had now 'shifted their priorities' away from it, the report said. Other trusts had strong reservations about whether Lift would enable the required level of premises development.

More than 80 per cent of GP premises in the area need replacing or renovating.

A separate study by the trade union Unison this week concluded that Lift was a 'bad deal for the NHS, patients, staff and taxpayers'.

Its criticisms included that Lift created extra layers of bureaucracy, made it harder for GPs and other primary care staff to influence services and that the scheme was unaffordable and disruptive.

The findings of the two reports will add to GPs' concerns about premises funding, with Lift seen as the only option for renovating the primary care estate in many areas.

Dr David Shubhaker, secretary of Redbridge and Waltham Forest LMC, said GPs who had used Lift faced costs they would not have had to under other funding methods.

One practice in Waltham Forest PCT had to pay for all its furniture and equipment with no guarantees of reimbursement, he said. Another scheme in Redbridge forced GPs to pay stamp duty.

Dr Bhupinder Kohli, who moved into the country's first completed Lift building in Newham, east London, said Lift interest rates, at 21 per cent, were far higher than under cost-rent.

He said: 'I don't think Lift offers value for money.'

Dr Peter Holden, chair of the GPC's practice finance committee, criticised the Government's focus on Lift as the only means of premises funding.

He said: 'Government needs to grasp that paying for premises is not a false economy. We've got Lift or nothing.'

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