GPs who rent premises from NHS Property Services will have their stamp duty reimbursed and be allowed to break their lease if they lose their core contract under a new agreement.
The GPC has negotiated a new template lease with NHS Property Services for practices in rented premises, following a protracted debate, with a standardised lease having been under negotiation since the inception of the PropCo in 2013.
Although practices signing up to the new lease will incur a stamp duty, the GPC hailed an agreement from NHS England to reimburse this to practices as one of the benefits of the new agreement.
It said that other benefits include:
- A clause allowing practices who lose their core contract to break their lease.
- A requirement entitling practices that see their rents revised to equivalent reimbursement.
- The removal of a previous clause that allowed NHS Property Services to relocate a practice.
- Increased transparency for service charges in newly revised guidance.
- Agreed dispute resolution procedures for all GP practices signing up to the new template.
The news comes as local leaders had warned practices were being ‘financially crucified’ by a huge increase in service fees, with some seeing fees increase by £50,000-£60,000 per year.
The GPC Executive’s lead on premises negotiations, Dr Brian Balmer, said: ’This is the first agreed template lease between NHS Property Services and the BMA. It has been produced after considerable negotiation and we believe it allows practices to sign up to individual leases with the confidence that they are entering into a fair and modern relationship with the landlord.’
He added that there would ’of course always be local issues which need to be resolved’, admitting that ’this agreement is not a magic bullet to every problem that arises with GP premises’.
He said: ’The Government still, for example, needs to deliver on their planned investment in GP infrastructure.’
PropCo said in a statement that agreeing a standard lease ’is only one step in the documentation process’ and that it will also be ’surveying all buildings and preparing accurate, consistent floor plans’.
The statement added: ’Agreement will be reached with all occupiers on the space occupied or used and the basic terms on which it is occupied, such as the appropriate level of rent and the length of a tenancy… in the interests of achieving consistency across the estate, terms will not be tailored to individual occupiers any further than is absolutely necessary to fit their circumstances.’
NHS Property Services director of asset management John Westwood said that many of the properties inherited from PCTs and Strategic Health Authorities ‘had been occupied on a casual basis’ but that ’this documentation will ensure that we and our occupiers have the same understanding of the space they occupy – including access, shared and common areas’.
He said: ‘Although this formal approach is very different from what many of our GP occupiers have known in the past, we have found broad agreement on the principle of establishing rights and responsibilities through leases. GPs want to be sure that they have the facilities to provide contracted services.
‘This is a major advance and we are grateful to the BMA for their contribution… It provides a platform for planning future needs, so that we can help tenants manage space better, deliver services in a different way or identify extra services that might be needed.’
A large number of practices transferred over from informal, historic agreements with service providers to the new NHS Property Services management company, dubbed PropCo, in April 2013.
LMC leaders warned at the time that the transfer could include ‘rocketing’ service charges in the future.
NHS Property Services owns and manages about 11% of NHS GP practices, with the remainder owned by partners, private sector property companies, Community Health Partnerships or hospital trusts.