Premises deadline puts GPs' surgery plans in jeopardy
By Ian Cameron
Plans for dozens of new GP premises hang in the balance after the Government said it will only meet the cost of projects signed off by the end of September.
GPs are furious after the Department of Health only announced the decision in November, six weeks after the deadline had expired. The news came in guidance to primary care trusts on changes to funding of GP premises as a result of the new GMS contract.
Under the contract, prem-ises funding becomes cash-limited and PCTs will receive their allocations via a single, unified stream for all general practice costs. Funding for projects not signed off by September must come from Government 'growth monies'.
Dr Ian Rummens, secretary of Shropshire LMC, said 20 private finance initiative projects in his area alone had been stopped because trusts had not signed contracts in time and were no longer guaranteed cost-rent reimbursements.
Dr Rummens, whose sur-gery is in a listed Georgian townhouse, said the future of the projects rested on what the department interpreted as a contractual agreement.
'This is the last straw for us. No one knows how much money will be allocated, when it will be announced or how projects will be examined for consideration,' he said.
'It may be they choose to interpret what is a contractual agreement in a liberal way. But if not, unless you borrow money on a private basis, which is time-consuming and carries a financial risk, you have no access to funding and you can't rebuild or improve.'
Liz Welsh, primary care development manager at Shropshire County PCT, said it had been 'surprised' as it was expecting the cut-off to be the end of the financial year.
Dr Grant Kelly, chair of the GPC's premises sub-committee, said he had tried to explain the consequences to the department. He added: 'It brought forward the date to put the dampers on anything that might take money away in the period up to the new contract.'
Dr Grant Ingrams, chair of West Midlands LMCs, said Shropshire trusts had been less flexible than many others and could have got round the deadline. 'Other PCTs have been more flexible, saying if there is PCT agreement schemes could still be signed off even though they don't make the September deadline, or they could sign off the plans knowing money is coming.'