GPs in Scotland are being encouraged to apply for an interest-free secured premises loan as a scheme outlined in the new GP contract is launched.
Loans of up to 20% of the existing use value of premises will be on offer for those who apply by 12 December.
Successful applicants will be determined by health boards according to need but further opportunities to access a loan will open in 2019, the Scottish Government said.
All eligible GP contractors will receive a loan ‘sooner or later’ under the scheme which is part of plans to transition the NHS to owning all GP premises by 2043.
Health boards will be sending out details of the loans and how to apply to all those eligible.
The Scottish Government has committed to providing an additional £30m by 2021 – £10m per year – to fund the scheme, the rationale of which is to make GP partnerships more attractive and take pressure off GPs left with responsibility for premises when partners retire or leave.
It has proved one of the more popular aspects of the new Scottish contract which came into force in April.
GP leaders in Northern Ireland have signalled their intention to come to a similar arrangement and GP representatives will be voting on whether to emulate the scheme at the BMA Wales annual LMC conference [might need to check how that vote went].
A review of premises is underway in England with a view to reducing liabilities carried by GPs.
Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said: ‘We recognise that practice premises are sometimes seen as an unwanted liability by potential GP partners, and this has an impact on recruitment and retention.
‘These interest-free secure loans will help reduce the risk of premises ownership and support a move towards GP contractors no longer being required to provide their premises.
She added: ‘This action sits alongside our new GP contract, which is supported by investment of £110 million this year and ensures GPs are able to spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy, and will help cut doctors’ workload.’
The Scottish Government has pledged to increase the number of GPs by 800 over the next ten years and is planning a comprehensive marketing and recruitment campaign.
Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA Scotland’s GP Committee said: ‘Reducing the risks that act as a barrier to GP recruitment and retention is at the heart of the new GP contract.
‘Scotland’s new premises sustainability loans are a key part of those efforts and will help to make general practice sustainable for the future.’
He said the loans would reduce the financial burden new partners must take on to buy into partnership and over the longer-term starts the journey towards a system where GPs will no longer be expected to provide their own premises.
‘For practices that own their own buildings, this is one of the major benefits of the new GP contract and has been widely acknowledged as such by GPs across Scotland.’