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Seven-day GP opening plans ‘may be hampered by premises legal glitch’

GP practices may be blocked by the lease on their premises from providing the seven-day access that the Government wants to see nationally, a legal expert has claimed.

A high-profile scheme for extended hours in the evenings and at weekends from next year was announced by prime minister David Cameron earlier in the week, but a lawyer said the pilot schemes may be subject to delays because GP practices’ existing lease restrictions may not permit them to be open at these times.

Nathan East, who is a partner in law firm DAC Beachcroft’s real estate team, said the £50 million trial to see if greater GP access could reduce A&E attendance may struggle to get going.

He said: ‘While the Government’s plans for extending GP opening hours represents a significant opportunity to enhance primary care, planning and lease restrictions on the use of GP surgeries may be a significant fly in the ointment when it comes to actually implementing the scheme.’

‘In considering whether to extend their opening hours, GPs must check the planning restrictions and lease covenants that apply to their buildings as most will not currently be able to alter opening times without first amending their planning status and lease conditions.’

‘It will be interesting to see how quickly the pilot schemes are able to circumnavigate these roadblocks.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Any practice that wants to apply to become a pioneer site and offer extended services must make sure this will not break the terms of their lease. Practices are already aware of the need to consider any planning restrictions when looking at services they want to provide.’

‘The issue of any lease or planning restrictions will be considered when reviewing the results of the arrangements next summer.’