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GPs deprived of millions of pounds as NHS England revokes premises commitments

Exclusive Practices have been told by NHS England that they will not receive money that had been promised for premises improvements, at the same time as the Government overhauls its £1bn fund this week.

Pulse understands that at least 11 practices in the South West have had been told they will no longer receive money for work to begin this year, despite having previously been given ‘approval to proceed’ in June.

The GPC is currently gathering evidence of practices who are in similar positions, and have said that ‘large numbers’ of improvements have yet to begin, as the scheme has been ’fraught with delays and administrative hurdles’.

NHS England has said that no bids that were given ‘full approval’ have had it withdrawn, but some have ‘simply been deferred’.

However, changes to the scheme announced this week mean that those bids will now have to gain CCG approval, which GPs fear will not be automatic.

The £1bn fund was announced by chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement last year, to be split over four years.

In March, NHS England announced 1,000 practices had had their plans for premises improvements approved for funding in 2015/16, prioritising outstanding bids that could be accomplished quickly and those that would support seven-day working and care of the elderly.

On Wednesday, NHS England announced changes to the scheme, which would see CCGs approving schemes based on a set of criteria, including: increased capacity for primary care services out of hospital; commitment to a wider range of services as set out in commissioning intentions to reduce unplanned admissions to hospital; improving seven-day access to effective care; and increased training capacity.

Dr Simon Bradley, former chair of Avon LMC said his Concord Medical Centre practice has had the promise of a grant of more than £1.5m revoked, having been given approval to proceed in June this year.

However, he told Pulse: ‘Out of the blue I got a phone call saying, “what it amounts to is your money has been pulled”, and I’ve had a subsequent email confirming that telephone conversation.’

He said that the practice had put a ‘considerable amount of money and time in this project’, and the decision ‘will directly impact on patient care in our practice area’.

Dr Bradley added: ‘We were told that the same conversation that NHS England had with us had been had with another ten practices. And therefore we don’t believe we’re the only one.’

NHS England said that these schemes were never given final approval despite the letters to proceed, and that regular regional panels are reviewing the schemes nationally.

A spokesperson told Pulse: ‘We’re not aware of any bids that have received full approval and subsequently had it withdrawn, some have simply been deferred as their business case isn’t fully developed.

‘This came to light during the approval process before funding was committed. The development of business cases does take time and effort for GP practices and we’re supporting them wherever we can.’

But Dr Bradley said there was ‘no guarantee’ that they would get approval from the CCGs next year.

A GPC spokesperson told Pulse: ‘We are compiling examples where there have been issues with the programme, but we aren’t ready to release these at this stage.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The promise to allocate £250m annually from 2015/16 to improve GP premises was supposed to address this fundamental problem.

‘Unfortunately, the reality on the ground is that the scheme has been fraught with delays and administrative hurdles, with large numbers of promised improvements to GP practices across the country yet to start.’