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GP premises left empty after practice forced out by £60k service charges

A GP practice forced to vacate part of its premises due to rising service charges has complained that the space has remained empty for nine months.

GPs at the Island Health Centre, on the Isle of Dogs in East London, said being forced to give up the first floor of the building had meant losing space for teaching and training new GPs at a time when they are desperate to recruit.

And, since GPs vacated the floor, it has sat empty awaiting a new tenant with GPs saying they are now of the opinion that the charitable trust that owns the premise could have done more to support the GP practice.

As Pulse reported in January, the practice’s landlord, the Island Health Trust, had pushed building service charges up to more than £60,000 a year.

Island Health Centre GP partner Dr Jo Richardson said: ‘We are very disappointed that the charity which owns the building and has around £1m of cash assets has not been more supportive of the practice and of the NHS more generally, at a time when all services are under financial pressure…

‘Already, we are feeling cramped on the ground floor. Importantly we have also lost teaching and training space, which is a sad loss when we are desperate to recruit GPs.’

The GPs remain worried about the future viability of the practice but have received support from patients who have signed a petition to save it.

Meanwhile, a public meeting scheduled for next week to discuss the matter is due to be attended by Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs and NHS Tower Hamlets CCG chair Dr Sam Everington.

The health centre was built by the Island Health Trust after a campaign by local residents, with £700,000 of grants from Tower Hamlets council and the London Docklands Development Corporation, as well as a £700,000 loan to the trust.

Responding to the complaints, the Island Health Trust said that it had not been invited to the public meeting and that the GPs’ move to vacate the first floor was a ‘commercial decision in the context of their own private business’.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are of course interested and supportive of inclusive health provision and this is why we are currently evaluating our strategy to maximise our impact within the local community.

‘To ensure that this is successful, we are planning on engaging publicly once our initial strategy is set in order to ensure that we match local needs.’