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GP practices owe over £90m in premises fees, NHS Property Services claims

Exclusive NHS Property Services has urged GPs to pay what it says has accrued to more than £90m of outstanding premises fees.

Data supplied to Pulse by NHS PS showed that their tennants owe millions for rent and service charges, fees that have been disputed by practices and the BMA. 

In this latest development in the long-running dispute, the company – which is fully owned by the Deaprtment of Health – reiterated its call for practices to pay the fees.

But the BMA, which has not ruled out a legal challenge over premises fee hikes, told Pulse the amount of unpaid fees showed ‘the resolve of practices’ and urged NHS PS to work with GP representatives to ‘resolve this issue’.

NHS PS took over the leases for GP practices in rented premises from PCTs when these were abolished in 2013. Upon doing so, it found that many leases were operated without contracts and that PCTs had been subsidising premises fees at vastly varying levels.

Since then, NHS PS has brought rent up in line with market valuation of properties, removed subsidies and hiked services charges – sometimes by five-figure sums – with the overall bill to practices rising by nearly half (46%) in just two years.

But the BMA has said that there has been little clarity for practices about why their charges have changed and what parts will continue to be reimbursable in the longer term.

Now, the new data provided to Pulse reveals that £91.5m remains unpaid by practices, including:

  • £55m of the £113m invoiced to GP practices in 2016/17  (49% of the total)
  • £28m from 2015/16 – 30% of the total invoiced
  • £8.5m from 2014/15.

An NHS PS spokesperson said: ‘Most of the increase in the amount invoiced will be due to the move to market rent, which was introduced to help improve understanding of the true cost of occupation.

‘It is only by knowing these costs that we can address them. GPs are not financially affected by this as rent is reimbursed by commissioners. We always take time to discuss outstanding debts to resolve queries.’

They added: ‘It is important that bills are paid so that we can continue to reinvest in the NHS estate. Last year, we invested £67m to upgrade and develop new facilities across England.’

But BMA GP Committee premises lead Dr Ian Hume said: ‘Simply paying the service charges which have increased significantly will have a destabilising effect on practices.

‘The data provides further evidence of the resolve of practices following GPC’s advice and the need for NHS Property Services to work with us to resolve this issue and for a swift conclusion to our negotiations.’

As previously reported by Pulse, LMCs have also advised practices to pay their premises fees at pre-increase rates, including in Oxfordshire where practices are disputing a 400% fee increase.

The dispute has also seen BMA advise practices not to sign new leases unilaterally imposed by NHS PS.

What has NHS Property Services billed GPs and what is yet to be paid?

Year Total costs invoiced to GP tenants in year – £m Total costs charged to GP tenants that were outstanding at 31 July 17 – £m
2016/17 112.9 55.1
2015/16 89.5 27.8
2014/15 77.5 8.6
 Total 279.9 91.5

Source: NHS Property Services