But GP leaders warned funding must come quickly to support practices facing increasing pressure as work transfers out of hospitals.
NHS Property Services Ltd, which took over management of PCT-owned property on 1 April, revealed it is going through financial returns from NHS organisations to calculate how much funding could be made available.
Its director of asset management, Pamela Chapman, revealed the plans at a primary care premises conference earlier this month. But NHS Property Services has yet to reveal further details, including what proportion of any funding made available could go to primary care.
GP leaders fear that the money will take a long time to reach primary care because the company - which now has the legal title to 3,600 assets valued at around £5bn - is ‘a long way from consolidating the estate they have inherited from PCTs’.
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘We know NHS Property Services wants to design an investment programme eventually, but they are a long way from consolidating the estate they have inherited from PCTs so it will take time to do this. Their intention is to use the income from the sale of surplus land or buildings to reinvest in to property development elsewhere.
‘We're concerned that this is going to take time we can ill afford. Practices need urgent premises developments now to be able to meet current patient demands let alone prepare for the expected increase in activity in the future.’
Medical director of Surrey and Sussex LMCs Dr Ian Harper called for the money to be used to sign off more, and larger-scale, premises improvement grants. He argued that in the past three years only minor grants have been approved.
‘We want to see new investment in primary care, in new buildings and new improvement grants,’ he said. ‘In the area that we cover, there were improvement grants but they were made very late in the financial year and the funding was restricted to only include developments that would help practices with CQC registration.
‘Practices need to be able to expand. Any criteria for grants should be clear and transparent so that practices know whether they are in with a chance before they make the application.’
Family Doctor Association and Swindon GP Dr Peter Swinyard said: ‘I can’t see a vast amount coming into the coffers. We have needed it for ten years.
‘There are some premises that need extensions, some that need improvements and some that need knocking down and starting again. If you actually want to have healthcare delivered nearer to the patient then you are going to need investment in GP premises.’
When asked how much is needed for investment in premises, he said ‘how long is a piece of string?’
GPC lead negotiator on premises Dr Peter Holden has previously called for an annual investment of £250m a year from central government.