DoH fails to consult PCTs on premises scheme

The DoH has spent months developing a £1 billion premises programme, without asking whether PCTs actually wanted to use it.

Express LIFT is a successor to the NHS Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) programme, which used public-private partnerships to build a new generation of surgeries in half of England's PCTs.

Under Express LIFT, contractors will be 'pre-approved' to build premises, speeding up the procurement process. The DoH says this would cut the process from two years to less than two months.

They add that the programme will be used by 'all PCTs who want to make use of it'.

The scheme has generated substantial interest in the construction industry, with 28 firms bidding for as few as six places on the final framework.

But correspondence between the DoH and PFI magazine Public Private Finance, obtained by GP, reveals that only three of the 75 eligible PCTs had confirmed that they were interested in using the new programme.

A DoH spokesman admitted: 'We did not carry out any survey in advance to ascertain interest. We have not collected data to enable us to know.'

A spokesman for Community Health Partnerships, the agency responsible for LIFT, said it had not formally gauged PCT interest levels. But 'anecdotally, we have found that many PCTs are interested in this method of procurement', he added.

GPC negotiator and premises spokesman Dr Peter Holden said: 'The DoH never bothered to ask the profession either.'

But he added the lack of consultation was not what put GPs off. 'The biggest problem GPs have got is that there is so much jargon that neither they nor the PCTs even understand,' he said.

The Express LIFT framework will be open to GPs once the approved list of six to 10 contractors has been chosen, early in 2009.

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