GP practices 'missing out on millions of pounds in premises funding'

Practices are likely to be missing out on millions of pounds in premises funding available through councils, GP leaders have suggested.

Housing development link to GP premises cash (Photo: Jessie Casson/Getty Images)
Housing development link to GP premises cash (Photo: Jessie Casson/Getty Images)

Councils across England have the power to claim millions of pounds from developers to help fund GP infrastructure through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which was introduced in April 2010.

However, the BMA has warned that the process can be ‘onerous’ and ‘littered with red tape’ meaning that many practices are not benefiting from the scheme. It has called for CCGs to work with local authorities to ensure surgeries receive appropriate funding.

The warning comes after a CCG in south-west England wrote to council leaders to demand more than £250,000 to develop capacity in general practice following plans to build 350 new homes.

GP premises

In a letter to Thanet District Council, in Kent, Canterbury and Coastal CCG argued that practices in Herne Bay Primary Care Network (PCN) were entitled to council funding to improve premises.

Two practices within the network, Park Surgery and Heron Medical Practice, were already at ‘limited capacity’ and needed £266,175 for premises upgrades to accommodate up to 1,000 new patients, the CCG warned. It added that the primary care workforce may need to expand to cope with additional demand.

The CCG's letter said: ‘There is currently limited capacity within existing general practice premises to accommodate growth in this area. The need from this development, along with other new developments, will therefore need to be met through the creation of additional capacity in general practice premises.

Primary care capacity

‘Herne Bay PCN will require expansion to provide space to service the health needs of the additional patients. The current estate is at capacity and the PCN will need to develop plans to extend a current site or build a new location if further expansion is not possible.’

The letter added: ‘Physical infrastructure is one element but alongside this workforce is a critical consideration both in terms of new workforce requirements and retirements. Any plans developed need to support delivery of sustainable services for the future.’

NHS England and Improvement has said many NHS organisations are failing to engage with their local council to secure infrastructure funding and has encouraged more to do so.

GPC premises policy lead Dr Gaurav Gupta told GPonline that many practices were missing out on available funding. He said: ‘GPs have long been telling us that their premises are not up to scratch; a recent BMA survey showed that around eight in 10 practices said their practices were not suitable for future needs or anticipated population growth. Without access to fit-for-purpose premises, GPs can’t offer patients the care they want to because of the lack of resources and space.

Red tape

‘Funding from local councils should be available to match the increase in patient needs, but it’s likely that many practices are missing out as the process can be onerous, littered with red tape and needs action from the local CCGs to implement.

‘It is entirely appropriate that CCGs work with local authorities to ensure that adequate funding is made available to surgeries, but we also need to see a clear capital funding strategy for primary care underlined by an STP investment strategy, to ensure we can continue to deliver high-quality care both now and in the future.’

A recent BMA survey of more than 1,000 practices across the country found that only half of GPs and practice managers felt their premises were suitable for present needs, while 80% predicted that their premises would not be fit for the future.

Meanwhile, London council leaders from all 32 boroughs have called for a transformation of the capital’s 'ageing GP surgeries' to make them 'fit for the 21st century'.

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