LIFT premises schemes are proving unworkable

The GPC has called for 'massive investment' in primary care premises, pointing to increasing evidence that LIFT building schemes are proving to be unworkable.

Support for the LIFT model has dipped among both GPs and PCTs, who have expressed concerns that it will saddle health communities with long-term debt and will fail to meet health needs.

Wiltshire PCT rejected plans for a LIFT scheme worth around £85 million in late July. An affordability study found it would not provide value for money until 13 years into the project.

The PCT also felt that small-scale development planned for the area did not warrant such a complex funding arrangement.

Last year a scheme by West Kent and Eastern and Coastal Kent PCTs was dropped in the planning stage. 'It was complex and what they wanted to achieve could be done better through third-party property developers,' a Kent LMC spokesman said.

The LMC spokesman added that where LIFT had been used, GPs had become disillusion.

Referring to another LIFT scheme in the county that did get off the ground, involving the relocation of seven practices onto three sites in Medway PCT, he said: 'GPs were not consulted on basic things. Now there are problems with car parking, having to share waiting rooms and the design of surgeries.'

Nottinghamshire LMC, which agreed to act as a local 'LIFT champion' three years ago is now opposing further use of the scheme in its area.

A report it produced this summer concluded that 'LIFT is far more expensive than anticipated and has burdened the local health economy with more debt for the next 25 years'.

Nottinghamshire LMC chief executive Chris Locke said that key concerns were the quality of the new buildings, lack of GP involvement in their design and development and a feeling that 'we have been mis-sold what LIFT was about'.

'We thought that it would be used to provide new state-of-the-art buildings and enable GPs in obsolete premises to move in.

'What has happened in the most part is that existing PCT health centres have been replaced and that's it,' he said.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said: 'The DoH needs to accept that massive capital expenditure is needed to invest in primary care rather than LIFT.'

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