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GPs go forth

NHS Property Services on why ‘a clean slate’ isn't the answer

Mark Smith, chief financial officer at NHS Property Services, says why the wholesale write-off of ‘unsubstantiated’ historic service charges would be an unfair approach

As a not-for-profit organisation supporting the demands of frontline care, every penny NHS Property Services (NHSPS) generates is reinvested back into the NHS.

We are all proud to be NHS employees. Our role is to deliver a high-quality estate for the provision of frontline NHS services to enable excellent patient care, but we can only do this by recovering rent and other essential costs, ranging from electricity to cleaning and repairs. The same applies to past charges that have yet to be paid.

We also incur real external lease and facilities costs from third party landlords and service providers, including utilities charges, on behalf of GPs, which are then not always recovered.

It is unclear how adopting the ‘clean slate’ approach that Edwina promotes would be viewed by fellow GPs - both in NHSPS properties or otherwise - who have and continue to pay their bills.

As Edwina notes and the PAC report from November 2019 highlighted, NHSPS has faced significant legacy issues operating as a property management and services company in the widespread absence of formal lease agreements.

We fully acknowledge that whilst progress has been made, this has not been as rapid as we would have wanted and there is still work to be done.

Progress has not been as rapid as we would have wanted and there is still work to be done

One thing I want to make especially clear is that we are committed to working with our customers to reach agreements.

As part of this, we have now met with most of our customers to ensure charges in the 2019/20 Annual Charging Schedules were fully explained. This has also enabled us to work together to try and resolve any issues at an earlier stage. In response to customer feedback, we have also sped up the process for issuing Annual Charging Schedules to better align with GP practice planning and budgeting.

We are continuing to develop a suite of simpler occupancy agreements for our customers that will cover the reimbursable elements such as rent and rates, with a view to establishing separate agreements for service charges and facilities management costs.

Better communication and working together with our customers are key to solving this issue and mitigating against similar problems in the future.

I would urge any customers that do not agree with our charges to contact us so that, together, we can find a solution that is fair for everyone.

Mark Smith is chief financial officer at NHS Property Services

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Cobblers

    "As a not-for-profit organisation supporting the demands of frontline care, every penny NHS Property Services (NHSPS) generates is reinvested back into the NHS".

    PHEW that's alright then!

    So not only real reductions year on year in terms of take home pay, pension problems and high tax bills you also have the enviable duty to pay over the odds for NHS rentals all going to the NHS.

    Makes you feel all nice warm and cosy doesn't it?

    Where do they get these numpties from?

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  • The point is that the time spent reclaiming money will cost you more than you will raise.
    Also, that the historical costs you are trying to make people pay are unjustifiable and largely made up - and GPs shouldn't and won't pay for services that haven't been delivered. My surgery was given a charge for 'gardening' when we don't have a garden.
    NHS Estates were, and largely remain, a mess. I sympathise with the problem you have inherited, but the solutions are simple.
    - forget unjustifiable past service charges, and compromise, perhaps by looking at historical charges before you started making things up
    - put in place reasonable agreements going forward
    - understand that the completely unreasonable massive hike in services charges wasn't just a way of making NHPropco break even, but a way of making it attractive for Privatisation
    - accept that modern service charges need to be individualised to practices and matched to actual real service delivery
    - then the NHS needs to pick up 100% of all service charges: otherwise every increase is just another enormous tax on being a GP, and will drive us all out of business

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  • The whole purpose of NHSPS is to establish it as a profit making going concern and then sell it.
    The joke of charging practices 70k when they were paying 10k for services and had been for 40 years allowing for inflation didn’t help. Then not invoicing for the things that are due to NHSPS like the reimbursables gives the impression of incompetence. Then taking years to come forward with a lease gives the impression they are not that bothered by a lease but in fact is just more incompetence.

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  • “Every penny is reinvested back in the NHS”

    So please explain the bonus that was given to your chief executive - the biggest in the NHS

    “The biggest went to Elaine Hewitt, the chief executive of NHS Property Services, who received between £75,000 and £80,000 on top of her £220,000 salary”

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  • If GPs have to pay market rents, then I want market rates for my services. Mark Smith, explain why that does not happen ?

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  • Still looking for that lift in our building that we were billed for by NHSPS As we designed and built it ourselves it was quite a surprise to find the builders must have hidden one during construction.

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  • At one point NHSPS we’re billing us for our own reception staff and we got the odd bill for lunch time sandwiches. Turned out they were bills for another building with a similar name. Then there is the weird things like a yearly test of our lightening rod. I did wonder how the building survived for 50 years without them.

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  • It should be a clean slate because the service charge bill is not accurate. If contested in the courts it will be long and drawn out. Going forward ( or looking backwards ) the NHS should charge a set fee like say £3 per patient for service charge and make the rest up with NHS Property Services. Our surgery is seriously thinking of leaving our NHS Property Service Building and joining a neighbouring surgery to avoid future service charges . Repeat this by a few hundred and you will have lots of empty NHS buildings. Look at what is happening to large property companies with empty shops in shopping malls. At the moment I would not recommend a new GP partner join a GP surgery with NHS Property Services lease because of the uncertainty of future service charges.

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  • GPs should not have to provide premises to work in.

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