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Practices will be able to claim 100% of premises upgrades costs

GPs will now be able to bid for grants under the Estates and Technology Transformation Fund (ETTF) that fully cover the cost of premises projects.

This comes as the BMA’s GP Committee negotiated several changes to the Premises Cost Directions with NHS England, including a lift in the cap on how much NHS England can contribute to a project through the ETTF from 66% to 100%

The lift in the cap fulfils a longstanding pledge, first announced in the GP Forward View in April 2016, which promised ‘up to 100% reimbursement of premises developments’, which was initially promised for September 2016.

The cap has previously stopped projects from going ahead, for example in the crisis town of Bridlington where plans to develop a single building to house five GP practices were scrapped when NHS England said it could not fund the entire project.

However, the cost direction changes announced today do not present a solution to the six-figure service charge increases faced by practices, which the BMA called ‘excessive and erratic’ before the talks broke down late last year.

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But GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the ‘positive changes’ to the cost directions ‘will go some way to ease the anxieties associated with owning or leasing practice premises’.

In a letter sent to all GPs in England, Dr Vautrey added that NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the BMA are moving ahead with a wider premises review ‘as in many areas in the country it is premises problems that are leading practices to hand back their contract’.

According to the BMA the six-month review, which will start this summer, aims to ‘provide a better picture of the overall position on primary care estates’.

It will look into whether premises are fit for purpose for the future, promoting the recruitment and retention of GP contractors and ensuring GP premises give good value for money.

NHS Employers said: ‘It is recognised that there is a need to undertake a further review of premises used to provide primary medical care in England. This review (to commence by the early summer of 2018) will also address some outstanding issues from the review of the Premises Costs Directions.’