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How do I apply for premises funding?

Click here to read the letter

The application form for the premises funding can be downloaded via the link on the right.

Q Is it worth submitting an application if you haven’t already got planning permission or an architect’s sketches?

Chris Johnson, a director at GP Surveyors says: ‘No. It is highly unlikely that any projects that do not have planning permission will be able to achieve this by 16 February. Development projects take a lot of time and meticulous planning by a team of specialists. Rushing both through this stage and the planning permission stage may cause mistakes to be made and the project not being fulfilled to its maximum potential. It would make more sense for surgeries in this situation to wait until next year.

‘Alternatively surgeries could submit bids that don’t commit to too many precise details so that they can be refined at a later stage if given the go ahead. However, even if any of these bids were to be successful, it is unlikely that the projects would be able to meet the completion deadline of 31 March 2016.’

Dr Brian Balmer, premises lead on the GPC, says: ‘This year’s timescales are not reasonable for somebody making a standing start. However, practices [that aren’t ready this year] could still start discussing ideas for applications with NHS England (NHSE) for next year.

‘We told NHSE that the fund shouldn’t be reserved entirely for things already in pipeline, it should be available to all practices. If people put in a reasonable proposal, it will be looked at.’

Q How long should you allow to find an architect to provide the sketch plans and estimates for the cost of the improvements?

Paul Hardy, a lawyer at health and social care law firm Hempsons, says: ‘Practices don’t need planning permission, architect’s sketches or tenders to submit an application because section five of the form is not required at this stage. They will be required to at some future point during the application process, but not now.’

Johnson says: ‘GP Surveyors works with a number of architects who would be able to enter into discussions about a project within the space of a few weeks – however the precise time really depends on the complexity of the job.’

Q How should we go about choosing an architect or builder to work with on the plans?

Hardy says: ‘Look for a company with a professional reputation that isn’t going to do anything that would compromise any CQC or health and safety standards. The tender or the bids prepared by the architect need to be done in professional way so NHSE can scrutinise them properly.’

Q Should you discuss plans with patient groups first?

Johnson says: ‘Any well-thought-out business plan will be partly based on input from patient groups. The views of patients are a vital aspect of achieving a development that meets the needs of the local community.’

Hardy adds: ‘Strive to do that as it’s a part of the criteria and it would strengthen the application.’

Q How can we make the application as successful as possible?

Dr Balmer advises: ‘Be clear what you want. The applications will be read by people who don’t know you. Don’t assume that everybody will know what a terrific practice you are and how you’re really going places, tell them. This is an instance where you really need to sell the practice. If possible consult the patient groups and share it with both local and NHS England bodies, because a different view will be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t.’

Hardy adds: “Make sure you’re aware that the types of projects you can use this money for are governed by Direction 8 of the premises directions, so there are only certain types of projects you can apply this money for. These include extension to premises, support to deliver primary medical services, enlargement of existing rooms, improving physical access to the practice, and accommodating to meet needs of kids and elderly people. Direction 9 tells you the ones you can’t use the money for, which are things like restoration work and work necessary as result of wear and tear.

Johnson says: ‘Practices must show value for money, how the scheme supports the long term strategy for the local health and care system, and how it will work with wider public services and have long term sustainability.’

Q Does the funding alter who owns the premises?

‘Premises still belong to GPs and partners but Direction 12 allows NHS England to insert some conditions,’ advises Hardy. ‘One of those could be remaining in the premises for a guaranteed length of time, or repayment of some of the monies should you not stay in guaranteed amount of time.’

Q Are there any final checks to make before applying?

Hardy says: ‘From a good business practice point of view, practices should ensure that their lease is up to date and the partnership deed and any land registry documentation is all up to date to reflect current ownership status. Reconsider, or consider any declarations of trust that they may have in respect of the premises.

If practices have a lease, they should make sure they are familiar with its terms and lengths because NHS England might be uncomfortable about the length of the lease that is left to run. For example, if you’ve only got 12 months left on your list, NHS England might not feel comfortable about giving you a large improvement grant.

‘Practices must also ensure that they get approval from NHS England before they commence the work, otherwise they run the risk of not being able to claim reimbursement.’

Dr Brian Balmer is a negotiator at the GPC and the lead on practice finance, premises and GP network development.

Paul Hardy is a partner at health and social care law firm Hempsons, with a specialism in real estate law.

Chris Johnson is a director at GP Surveyors.

Click here to read the letter

The application form for the premises funding can be downloaded via the link on the right.