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Halt ‘irresponsible’ house building plans or put patients at risk, GPs tell authorities



Exclusive A GP practice which has had its bid for premises funding blocked by NHS England has written to local authorities to say it would be ‘irresponsible’ to increase the area’s population at this time.

Faversham Medical Practice, which had been assessed as a priority to receive money from the Government’s £1bn premises fund to be able to add more treatment rooms, told Swale Borough Council that under current circumstances going ahead with planned housing development in the area would be a threat to patient safety.

The GPs warned this comes as two practice closures in the area in the last year has left remaining practices with ‘enormous pressure’ on their services.

And, although NHS Canterbury and Coastal CCG assessed Faversham Medical Practice’s expansion plans as being of ‘high importance’, NHS England has put the approved funding on hold because the practice has refused to sign a new lease with NHS Property Services.

According to the practice, NHSPS has proposed an increase in fees from £15,000 a year to £80,000 a year, which could ‘make the practice financially unviable’ and it has therefore refused signing.

Faversham Medical Practice senior partner Dr Daniel Moore’s letter said that in response, the practice is ‘now reluctantly considering that we will have no option but to close our list to new patients’.

He added: ‘I am writing to ask Swale Borough Council to refuse any planning applications which would increase the housing stock in the Faversham area, and by definition increase the number of residents requiring a GP practice.

‘It would not be safe to allow the population to grow in the area knowing that there is inadequate provision of primary care in the area.’

He concluded by saying he is sure the council ‘will take this matter as seriously as we are and take immediate steps to safeguard the health of the local population’.

A practice spokesperson added: ‘It would be irresponsible of the council to let more houses be built if they can’t ensure that primary care services are available to their population.’

A Swale Borough Council spokesperson said: ‘Whilst we understand and sympathise with the concerns raised, the council’s planning committee would be not in a position to refuse planning applications for new housing on allocated sites where the applicants are prepared to meet their generated health infrastructure for those that will live on the site.

‘We would be willing to engage with all the parties concerned with a view to securing adequate and sustainable health services for people in Faversham, or elsewhere in the borough.’

An NHS England (South) spokesperson said: ‘If taxpayers are about to invest substantial new funding in upgrading surgeries it is right to ensure a long-term return on that investment. The Estates and Technology Transformation Fund criteria is clear that security through a lease is a key requisite for funding and all practices applying have to agree to this.

‘Once agreed we remain fully committed to investment, subject to normal due diligence checks.’

NHS England’s failure to secure vital investment to struggling GP practices

Faversham Medical Practice is just one of several GP practices caught up in a lengthy dispute between GP practices and landlord NHS Property Services about signing new leases that would exponentially hike their service charges.

And the dispute is having the follow-on effect that promised premises funding has been put on hold as practices are required to have signed a lease in order to access funds – an England-wide problem which Pulse has previously highlighted.

Recently, Pulse learned that the GPC may take legal action to end the lengthy dispute over ‘unreasonable’ premises fee hikes proposed by NHS Property Services.

At last month’s LMCs Conference, the GPC announced it was ‘hopeful’ the issue could be resolved in GPs’ favour, and expected it to ‘come to a head in the next month’.