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GP practice sees service charges triple to over £100k in four years

A GP practice in Hampshire has seen its facilities management charges increase three-fold in four years, the BMA has said.

Wilson Practice, which serves 14,700 patients, previously paid £29,000 in service/facilities management charges, however the revised rates increased to £110,000 last year, the BMA told MPs. 

This is the latest in long-running disputes over premises service charges since Pulse reported in 2016 that several practices saw their fees hiked by up to 400%, while more recently a practice’s annual service charge increased from £14,000 to £48,870

As part of written evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the investigation on NHS Property Services (NHSPS), the BMA collected two case studies outlining premises issues faced by practices in Tower Hamlets and Hampshire. 

Wilson Practice, Hampshire, reported that its service/facilities management charges have tripled in four years, from £29,000 in 2014/15 to £110,000 in 2018/19.

The practice said: ‘We do not have a lease in place despite sporadic attempts by NHSPS to offer one on less than favourable terms to us. The last time our records and those of NHSPS showed Wilson Practice payments in balance with NHSPS invoices was in 2014/15. Since then we have tried to engage with NHSPS. This has been frustrating, time-consuming and often receives no reply at all, each time discrepancies and confusion arise.

‘It has not been possible to resolve the widening gap between our understanding of what we believe we should be paying and the invoices we receive. We received a statement in August 2019 stating that the practice now owes NHSPS £470,958. We have written to dispute this figure and have been offered a meeting. It is a significant concern and, as we are in recruitment mode, takes some explaining to would-be GP partners- it clearly makes Wilson Practice less attractive than others in these challenging times.’

BMA GP Committee executive team member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said the case study reflects nationwide premises issues and ‘enormous increases in service charges’ faced by GPs.

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He said: ‘Sadly, the problems at the Wilson Practice are an indication of the issues faced by GP practices across the country due to the appalling service provided by NHSPS.

‘It’s unacceptable that so many practices have seen such enormous increases in service charges, often being billed for work that has not been carried out nor requested – in some instances NHSPS is unable or unwilling to tell practices what they are being billed for. A number of practices remain in dispute over these phantom charges, which is inevitably having a significant impact on GP recruitment and on patient care.’

An NHSPS spokesperson said: ‘NHSPS has been in dialogue with the Wilson Practice to reach a resolution and discuss a way forward. We have also been working with the North Hampshire CCG who have helped both parties to address long-standing issues.

‘We encourage all of our tenants to sign up to an occupancy agreement which will regularise our relationship, clarify rights and responsibilities, and offer certainty to all parties. The first step in this process, which is close to agreement, is the space occupied by the Practice and subsequently we will be undertaking an in-depth review into current and historic costs to seek agreement on these elements.

‘We are working to review our Annual Charging Schedules with all our customers to provide clarity and transparency going forward and are confident that, with the further help of the Wilson Practice and North Hampshire CCG, we will be able to resolve these outstanding issues.’