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GPs urged to ensure they have premises leases amid eviction threat fears

GPs working out of their premises under a ‘licence to occupy’ could be left vulnerable to higher rents, increased maintenance and repair costs and even eviction amid uncertainty over the terms of contracts transferred from PCTs to the Government’s new independent property company, the GPC has warned.

Some PCT-owned GP practices are due to be transferred NHS Property Services, otherwise known as PropCo, which was set up by the Department of Health to manage former PCT estates from 31 March 2013. Others will transfer to NHS providers on the same date.

The GPC urged GPs to be aware that the terms of premises contracts may change under new management, including an agreement permitting non-exclusive occupation of a property on a short-term basis known as a ‘licence to occupy’.

A message from GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman in the GPC’s July update to LMC leaders urged practices to ensure they had leases.

His message read: ‘We understand a number of practices operate out of their premises under a licence to occupy. I’d like to reiterate how important, in light of the changing NHS landscape, it is for practices to have leases.

‘As premises are moved into the nascent PropCo, this will become more pressing. LMCs are asked to continue to put pressure on PCOs to supply practices with a copy of their lease agreement.’

Dr Buckman told Pulse: ‘GPs don’t realise the change. If the license is taken over by a private provider, it doesn’t hold the same weight. The protections afforded under their current licence may not be the same.

‘We don’t know what protection will be offered when the takeover happens, and that’s why GPs need to get a lawyer to look over their agreement and ask: “Can the landlord kick us out within two months and build a Tesco?”‘

He added: ‘It is not in PropCo’s financial interest to evict GPs from their practices, but GPs need to be aware that a transfer from a licence to occupy to a lease might lead to less advantageous terms.’