Councils must drive premises investment to house extra 550 London GPs, report warns

GP premises development is falling behind demand in many London boroughs because councils are failing to use their powers to levy funding from other building schemes, a report has warned.

Premises: Councils can levy funding from developers
Premises: Councils can levy funding from developers

Premises growth is crucial to support an estimated 550 more GPs needed in the capital over the coming decade to meet rising demand, the report's authors point out.

The calls for councils to make greater use of powers to force developers to fund primary care premises come just months after GPonline revealed that millions of pounds collected by councils could be wasted.

Funding that could be used for GP premises improvement and expansion is available through levies on developers, a report by Conservative London Assembly member Steve O'Connell says.

But councils in many areas of the capital are not doing enough to collect the funding, or to direct it at primary care, it claims. The report highlights variations in GP numbers per patient across the capital, and calls on councils to monitor this and demonstrate how they are investing to maintain sufficient services for their area.

GP premises development

Only around one in three councils across London are monitoring GP numbers and the square meterage of premises available for them, the report says, while around half collect data on contributions from section 106 or the community infrastructure levy (CIL) system.

Councils can use section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to require a financial or other contribution to mitigate the effects of a development. Traditionally this has been used mainly to require contributions to roads infrastructure, affordable housing and schools, but it has been increasingly used to fund local health services. The newer CIL model works in a similar way.

The report calls on London Mayor Boris Johnson to put pressure on councils to use these powers more, and sets out three key recommendations for primary care premises that it calls on London boroughs to adopt:

  • All London boroughs should monitor and publish, annually at a minimum, the amount of GP floor space delivered through developer contributions through CIL or section 106 contributions.
  • All London boroughs should update their CIL or section 106 strategies to ensure that sufficient new GP floor space is delivered to support new housing development, and that provision is made for at least one GP per 1,800 new residents.
  • London boroughs should ensure that NHS bodies, such as the London Healthy Development Unit and local CCGs, are fully involved in decisions on how CIL and section 106 money is raised and spent, and that they are fully consulted on all major housing applications.

Mr O’Connell said: 'London’s population is growing at an unprecedented rate and we have to be ready to meet this demand.

'It is the right of every Londoner to have access to a GP and I am disappointed to see how few boroughs appear to be setting health provision as a priority for the coming decade. Local authorities need to take advantage of the planning process and provide GP surgeries for their borough.'

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