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GPC vows to fight any increase in premises fees to cover NHS shortfall

Exclusive The GPC has vowed to fight any increase in payments to the NHS’s new property management company, after a £500m gap in funding following the abolition of PCTs emerged.

Pulse has learnt that half of the £1 billion in costs managed by NHS Property Services - the body that has taken on most of the premises that PCTs own - used to come from PCTs themselves and will not be recouped after they are abolished this April.

The Department of Health said it was working with the NHS Commissioning Board to introduce a ‘new method’ of recovering the costs and, when pressed by Pulse, would not rule out recouping this from tenants, such as GP practices.

The GPC said it would fight any increase in fees for tenants of former PCT-owned premises due to a ‘Treasury accounting problem’.

At the LMC’s Secretaries’ conference at the end of November GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman revealed a potential ‘shortfall’ in the money that NHS Property Services - also known as PropCo - received to cover its costs.

A Department of Health spokesperson denied there was a shortfall, but said that as only around half of costs were covered by tenants, it was looking for ways to cover the remainder of PropCo’s costs.

He said: ‘The Department is now working with NHS Property Services and the NHS Commissioning Board to introduce a new method for recovering the remaining amount in future.’

They could not give more information on which options were being discussed, but would not rule out the option of tenants paying the balance formerly funded by PCTs’ allocations.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden, said the GPC would not allow NHS Property Services to ask GPs for more money to remedy the gap in funding.

He said: ‘Practices will be suddenly confronted by PropCo with the need for more money for premises. Outgoing PCTs won’t have the money to pay it, and CCGs won’t have the budget either, but that is a Treasury accounting problem not a general practice problem. 

‘How the money will be recovered will come down to a political decision. The GPC’s position is clear. We are damned sure GPs should not have to pay more.’

Dr Kenneth Megson, medical secretary of Gateshead and South Tyneside LMC said that in Tyneside there was a shortfall of around £5m due to the PCT subsidising practice’ rents and some practices had already seen their service charges increase by 400- 500% on their transfer to PropCo.

He said: ‘If they want the money from GPs the answer is that they’re not going to get it, it’s as simple as that. Practices have no funds available, especially with these service charge arrangements which put massive costs onto practices. They’re pushed to survive. They’re trying to squeeze us from both ends.’