GP leaders slam premises fee hikes as figures show practices owe £202m

GP leaders have hit out at premises service charge increases after the DHSC revealed that practices owe £202m in unpaid fees to NHS Property Services (NHSPS) and Community Health Partnerships (CHP).

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni (Photo: BMA)
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni (Photo: BMA)

A written parliamentary statement by health minister Steve Brine this week said that at the end of 2017/18 '£202m of rent and associated charges was recorded as overdue from GPs in the two companies’ accounts.'

However GP leaders said the charges were a ‘significant threat’ to general practice and should be abandoned.

GPC executive team member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘NHSPS and CHP have made unilateral changes to how these charges have been calculated without considering the burden this places on individual practices. They must resolve these issue which they’ve created.

‘Until this is rectified, these costs, which have escalated exponentially, are a significant threat to general practice. The DHSC, NHSPS and CHP must abandon this damaging policy and work with the BMA to protect GPs and their surgeries.’

He added that GP practices were already under pressure because of workforce shortages and underinvestment and were 'frustrated by this ongoing dispute' with NHSPS and CHP.

Service charge hikes

Around one in five GP practices across England operate from premises owned by NHSPS or CHP, which have managed the NHS-owned estates since PCTs were abolished in 2013. GPs in some NHSPS properties have been landed with up to six-figure increases in service charges for the use of their premises.

GP leaders have been warning since 2016 that the huge extra costs could force practices to close if they were not reversed.

Earlier this year, GPonline reported that GP leaders were hopeful that a national deal could be agreed soon to ease pressure on practices facing significant increases in charges after Northumberland LMC reached an agreement to write off thousands of pounds in costs.

The Northumberland arrangement brought more transparency over how the service charges are calculated, an agreement to reduce some charges, and a deal that wiped out any increased service charge costs that had been imposed on practices for the 2015/16 to 2017/18 financial years.

Former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said earlier this year that he did not want any GP practices to close as a result of rising service charges.

In his written answer to parliament Mr Brine said he was unable to say how many GP practices had failed to make payments. His statement said: ‘NHS England and clinical commissioning groups provide funding to GPs for premises costs. There is no centrally held assessment of numbers of GP practices who have received premises funding and not paid it to either of the companies.’

A spokesperson for NHSPS said: 'We are focussed on reducing the amount owed by discussing these legitimate property costs with individual practices and local NHS partners. More than a third of the outstanding amount is for rent and other reimbursable costs, which GPs claim back from their commissioners.

'In many cases, actual service costs have not significantly changed, but were previously funded by the wider NHS. It is important that bills are paid so that we can continue to reinvest in the NHS estate.'

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