Exclusive: GP practices pressured to house private AQP providers

GP practices have been warned not to be pressured into letting any qualified provider (AQP) firms use their premises because they may not be able to charge them for it.

Dr Sanford-Wood: ‘Practices do need to be aware and conscious of what their obligations are.' Pic Jason Heath Lancy
Dr Sanford-Wood: ‘Practices do need to be aware and conscious of what their obligations are.' Pic Jason Heath Lancy

Practices have been approaching LMCs asking what their obligations are for housing the multitude of providers vying to be approved to supply AQP services.

Only last week GP revealed that the types of services being provided through AQP has expanded by a quarter in recent months, raising fears that GPs can't keep track of increasingly fragmented services.

Devon LMC’s Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said some practices felt pressured into housing other providers after they were approached by ‘over-zealous’ independent providers.

‘There were one or two practices that were given the impression that it was possibly compulsory,’ he said.

‘They were keen to conclude a deal.

‘There may have been one or two instances where they had been contacted by slightly over zealous local managers from the other independent providers.

‘Practices do need to be aware and conscious of what their obligations are and also what the regulations are if they do choose to house a third party service. For example not double charging for space that is notionally charged.

‘I would advise them to think carefully about it and speak to their LMC.’

Head of the practitioners' group at Hempsons solicitors and joint chairwoman of the Primary Care Premises Forum Lynne Abbess warned that GPs may not be able to charge AQP providers for using their premises.

She said: ‘As GPs are reimbursed by the public purse for the cost of providing premises from which they can provide NHS services to patients, it would not be acceptable for GPs to seek to charge an AQP [provider] rent for the use of the same space - in fact, it could amount to a fraud.

‘The very fact that the space in question would be available for use by an AQP [provider] suggests that it is surplus to requirements. And this in itself could cause a problem if the AQP provider subsequently ceases to have a requirement for the space, as there is every possibility NHS England will deem it to fall outside the GP requirements for the purposes of future reimbursement.

‘Of course, if the space falls outside the area approved for rent reimbursement entirely, then the same problems do not arise - although it would be essential to ensure the basis for occupation by the AQP (including the payment of rent) is properly documented before occupation is taken up in order to avoid 'rights being acquired'.’

A DH spokeswoman said that a provider does not have to have premises before qualifying as an AQP provider. If the provider is qualified without yet having premises, it then becomes a condition ‘precedent of the contract’.

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