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Practice finally gets help from Property Service after fourth burglary in a year

Exclusive: NHS Property Services (NHSPS) has finally agreed to help a GP practice’s building security after its fourth break-in since September last year.

GPs at Luton’s largest practice, Lea Vale Medical Practice which serves 25,000 patients, first raised security concerns with NHSPS, including issues with their alarm, in around 2014 or 2015, according to practice staff.

However, the practice did not receive the promise of help from NHSPS which leases the property until one of its three sites, Liverpool Road Health Centre, was broken into for the fourth time in one year. 

After a recent meeting with NHSPS’s chief operating officer, the practice will now receive immediate and longer-term security measures – around 18 months after the practice started having significant security problems.

Liverpool Road Health Centre pays almost a quarter of a million pounds in rent, service charges and facilities management (£242,614.20) – including £1,000 in annual security service charges, according to payment documents seen by Pulse.

Mathew Wright, business partner at Lea Vale Medical Practice, told Pulse he was not impressed from the initial response from NHSPS, who told him to carry out a risk assessment to assess the security for its staff.

In an email seen by Pulse, Mr Wright told NHSPS: ‘We have just been broken in to for the fourth time in under a year, each time receiving the same response from your staff, nothing. Yes, meetings have been had and risk assessments have been carried but absolutely no action has been taken.’

He added: ‘If your home was broken in to just once, your family put at risk and the reason was a faulty alarm, poor lighting and faulty door locks, would it take you over 18 months to rectify the issues?’

In another email, he told an NHSPS employee: ‘You spend a significant amount of time reviewing processes but we are yet to see any action. The glass still hasn’t been replaced in the back door since the last break-in back in mid-May, a quarter of a year ago.’

Mr Wright said, as a result, the practice has had to place its own internal measures to ensure safety for staff.

He said: ‘I have done 12-13-hour days sometimes because I’ve had to come in early to accompany one our staff to open up as it’s not safe for her to do so on her own.

‘We then had to insist on NHSPS sorting the alarm out, which they did for the time being. But recently there’s been a fault after the May break-in. It works intermittently.’

NHSPS’s chief operating officer, Martin Steele, agreed to visit the practice on 21 August and, according to Mr Wright, the meeting went ‘very well’.

He said Mr Steele proposed a 10-day plan for immediate action and a ‘costly’ medium-term plan.

Mr Wright said: ‘He has promised that the 10-day things can happen immediately, and he will start trying to get the funds in place for the medium-term measures as they will be costly. Let’s see if he delivers but initial signs are promising.’

The medium-term plan includes new fencing, new walls, and security features. NHS Luton CCG stated the minimum list of improvements include: ‘an upgraded alarm to auto open and lock up the building; to introduce security shutters; to introduce toughened windows; to improve the lighting on the outside of the building.’

Mr Wright said: ‘It is a shame we had to go to such lengths to get some balls rolling.’

A Luton CCG spokesperson said: ‘The ongoing security issues at Liverpool Road Medical Centre have been discussed with NHSPS who have confirmed a list of planned improvements.

‘The CCG will continue to liaise with NHSPS and the GP practice to ensure the suggested interventions, and the protection of the patients and staff have been put in place, and that the practice security needs have been met.’

An NHSPS spokesperson said: ‘The safety and security of staff and patients is of the utmost importance to NHSPS. Following today’s [21 August] positive and amicable meeting with the lead tenant of the Liverpool Road Medical Centre, we are exploring further measures to improve the overall security of the property, which we expect to agree with the practice shortly.

‘We are aware and fully engaged with local authority partners and NHS Commissioners to address the anti-social activities taking place on the site.’

NHSPS has faced threats of legal action from the BMA recently, over its ‘astronomical’ charges for GPs in recent years.