Exclusive - LIFT to pay for Darzi's health centres

Premises for DoH super-surgery plan could be owned by private investors.

All the new health centres created by the Darzi review could be majority owned by private investors, GP has learned.

It is understood that most new building work will use the NHS Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT), a public-private partnership building programme established in 2000 to provide new premises for GPs.

LIFT companies are owned jointly by PCTs, the DoH and private investors. At present there are 46 of them, covering about 60 per cent of England.

But talks are underway to develop an 'accelerated' version of the programme, which will be open to other PCTs.

Dr Sue O'Connell, a former GP who heads the Community Health Partnerships agency responsible for LIFT, said that 'Express LIFT' would 'be quicker and easier to set up'.

Dr O'Connell added that her assumption is that LIFT companies would 'contribute significantly' to any new facilities proposed by the Darzi review, such as polyclinics.

This would mean they would be 60 per cent owned by construction companies and other private investors.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the GPC, said that private ownership of the new Darzi buildings was 'undoubtedly going to happen'.

'The days when PCTs are supportive of local practitioners and their building schemes seem to be well and truly over,' he said.

The rise of short-term APMS contracts had put GPs off long- term investments such as buildings, added Dr Vautrey.

Dr James Kingsland, chairman of the National Association of Primary Care, said he was unconvinced that LIFT was a cost-effective way of producing new buildings.

'Where is the evidence it has done any good?' he said. 'This is "any port in a storm". They are saying, in the absence of any alternative, let's go with this.'

A DoH spokesman said: 'LIFT will be one possible solution for PCTs developing new centres.

'PCTs are not required to develop LIFT projects if they do not think these best address their needs.'

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

Community Health Partnerships

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