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Northern Irish practices offered £10m to improve premises

Practices in Northern Ireland are being offered £10 million in ‘financial transactions capital’ loans towards improving their premises as part of the Government’s spending budget for 2016/17.

GPC NI chair Dr Tom Black welcomed the move and said that money could be used for extensions or even new premises in some cases.

Increasing numbers of practices are introducing on-site pharmacy services, bringing a need for extra rooms and work stations, said Dr Black.

This is the second year running that the Government has made £10 million in loans available for improving practice infrastructure, although only about £6 million has so far been allocated in the current budget year of 2015/16.

Seven ‘letters of offer’ have been issued to practices, and payments began last month, said a Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) spokesperson.

Dr Black said: ‘Improving GP premises is really important as we shift more services from secondary to primary care. Federations are bringing pharmacists into practices and we need more room for them, including work stations. Also, we are seeing more patients and so we need more space for patients in terms of treatment rooms.’

The DHSSPS spokesperson added: ‘The GP loan scheme was launched by the Health and Social Care Board, and payments to projects began in December 2015.

’The scheme provides loans to build, refurbish and extend GP practices. To date, seven letters of offer have been issued to practice, with a total value of just under £6m in 2015/16.’