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NHS England imposes GP premises freeze as it carries out funding review

Exclusive NHS England has put the vast majority of GP premises investment on hold while it develops a ‘consistent’ national process to evaluate bids for funding.

Pulse has learnt that NHS bosses have stopped all funding – except for a ‘limited number of strategically important’ developments – for GP premises and is currently developing a national framework to evaluate bids for funding.

NHS England added that the audit was ‘nearing completion’ and it would result in advice being developed to help CCGs and area teams in future planning.

The GPC expressed surprise at the announcement, but said that as a lot of the need for investment is hidden the audit may not be an accurate representation of the need for premises funding.

NHS England told Pulse that area teams were working with CCGs to develop a strategy for primary care and out-of-hospital services.

A spokesperson added: ‘Primary care allocations in 2013/14 did not ring-fence any revenue reserve, therefore funding has this year been identified only for a limited number of strategically important developments.’

NHS England head of primary care commissioning Dr David Geddes said: ‘Area teams are currently undertaking an audit to review premises development bids which are currently within the premises pipeline. These are either business cases for GP premises developments transferred as a legacy from PCTs, or new business cases received by area teams since April 2013.’

‘As a single organisation, NHS England will be applying a consistent process to the prioritisation and funding of business cases, approving business cases on clear evidence of need and alignment with emerging primary care strategies. To support this, work is underway to develop advice and a premises fact sheet which will assist CCGs and area teams in planning for 2014/15.’

But the GPC reacted with surprise. Lead negotiator on premises Dr Peter Holden, said: ‘No we are not aware of that audit and it would have been useful had they spoken to us. Because there is a lot of hidden demand out there, where doctors know they need extra space but haven’t bothered to ask because they have been told: “There’s no money, don’t bother asking”. So therefore I will have to say that whilst the audit is welcome, how accurate will it be?’

Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Robert Morley said the ‘complete blight’ on premises development was preventing GPs from providing the range of services they wanted to.

He said: ‘There is a lot of talk about moving services out of hospital [and although] many GPs would like to expand and develop their services, lots of GPs are still working in cramped and unsatisfactory premises. They may also struggle with their CQC inspections, but unfortunately they are caught between a rock and a hard place.’

The GPC has said it will step up its campaign for more investment to be made in premises this year, with a demand for £250m worth of investment in 2014.