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NHS England sitting on hundreds of GP premises applications



Exclusive GP practices are paying double rent on buildings as a result of NHS England sitting on ‘several hundred’ long-standing applications from practices for their premises to be upgraded, NHS managers have claimed.

Speaking at the Commissioning Show conference in London on Thursday, an official from NHS England admitted there was a backlog of ‘several hundred’ applications for upgrades that had been made to PCTs before the NHS reforms in April 2013 while it continued its review on funding.

An audience member from a commissioning support unit said that there were practices in his region who were paying out double rent on old and new premises while they waited for their applications to be processed.

GP leaders said that there has been a ‘20-year freeze’ on premises developments, and said that there is no indication that any more cash is forthcoming.

It comes after one practice led by a prominent media medic has already said it may have to shut as a result of the funding squeeze, while the GPC has prioritised increasing premises funding in recent weeks.

Dawn Ginns, from NHS England’s Primary Care Commissioning, National Support Centre said that  NHS England had ‘honoured’ business cases  from practices who had already received PCT board level approval but that those at an earlier stage were still stuck and unable to make improvements.

Ms Ginn told the audience at the Commissioning Show: ‘I’m conscious and aware that, across the country, there are several hundred business cases actually that are outstanding, that need a decision to be made.’

‘We’ve been doing a lot of work with colleagues across the country to make sure they’ve got the right support to make decision around how we can prioritise those business cases, and what are the types of issues that we need to make sure we put the support in the right place.’

But Phillip Woolley, a manager at the North and East London CSU, said that the delays are leaving newly built premises unused at great expense.

He said: ‘I certainly know two GP practices whose buildings have been ready to go into, for nearly a year. So not only are they paying rent for their existing building, but they’re paying for the building they’re waiting to move in to.’

He said another GP had begun construction of new premises before any approval had been given ‘because he’d become so frustrated with NHS England, he just went ahead anyway.’

Responding, Ms Ginn said she couldn’t comment on specifics cases but added: ‘You’re absolutely right, there needs to be a process which is what we’ve been looking at. It is a risk for anyone to move out of a building, obviously, and start to build without approval.’

Ms Ginn told the audience at the Commissioning Show: ‘I’m conscious and aware that, across the country, there are several hundred business cases actually that are outstanding, that need a decision to be made.’

‘We’ve been doing a lot of work with colleagues across the country to make sure they’ve got the right support to make decision around how we can prioritise those business cases, and what are the types of issues that we need to make sure we put the support in the right place.’

She announced that NHS England would soon be launching an online toolkit to help practices to develop their business cases, and to help area teams prioritise them.

Speaking to Pulse, Ms Ginn explained that the tool kit was one way to help shift the backlog and that a national strategy was under development.

She told Pulse: ‘We’re working on a big national premises strategy with our colleagues. But we haven’t got that together as yet, so it’s trying to give area teams some sort of principles and guidance to prioritise those business cases.’

‘They’re all at various stages – some have just given a quick expression of interest – but what we’ve said as part of the policy, is that the risk is with the practice until that decision has been made at area team level, and that will be funded and supported.’

Dr Peter Holden, a GPC negotiator, said that there was no indication that income was forthcoming.

He said: ‘There’s basically been a 20-year freeze on a decent number of developments. The Government says it has no cash, but when is it going to have some cash? Because you can’t have the shift in emphasis away from hospital-based care to general practice-based care, without some investment in premises.’

The GPC this month launched a major policy drive to improve the ‘live issue’ of GP premises, collecting examples of poor investment across the country, which it will present to ministers.