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