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Ideal time to invest in GP premises, says Stevens

This is the ideal moment for the Government to consider an upgrade to NHS infrastructure, such as primary care premises, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has said.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons health committee about pressing issues for the NHS this year, Mr Stevens said commissioning leaders were prioritising funding requests for upgrades to existing primary care premises, as well as new facilities. 

NHS England is currently considering ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs)’ that have been devised by NHS England local teams, CCGs, trusts and local authorities across 44 regions of England, which detail their strategies to work together over the next few years and requests funding. 

Mr Stevens said the plans – which will have profound effects for the health service across the country – are due to be published shortly. 

He said: ‘There are two or three different types of capital requests that we are getting out of the STP process. One is dealing with old buildings that require maintenance that we have got around the country, and I think it is an open question as to whether or not we would be able to sort that out.

‘That will all depend on whether or not the capital does become available over and above what is currently pencilled in.

‘Secondly we have got investment that people want to make so as to be able to free up lots of other efficiencies, moving out of poorly located or inappropriately designed facilities and beefing up primary care at scale and so on.’

There are also funding requests for schemes to improve technology, he added.

But he added that if it were up to him, more money would be sourced by the Government to fund premises upgrades.

He said: ‘So we are sort of working through those three and then we are going to have to rank where we either have a mission-critical need to do some repairs, because of the CQC or a health and safety issue. And for the other if it is a service redesign issue we will just have to rank them by how shovel-ready they are and how much of a payback they get us.

‘But, obviously, my personal point of view is that given the cost of Government long-term guilds are now the lowest they’ve been it would be an ideal moment to consider an upgrade in NHS infrastructure.’

It comes as the Government’s previously pledged £1bn primary care infrastructure fund has largely failed to materialise, as  Pulse revealed NHS England had revoked millions in pledged funding for early premises funding bids.

Most recently, as Pulse also revealed, some CCGs are even blocking requests from certain practices. This comes despite the GP Forward View setting out another set of new promises for GP premises upgrades.