Hundreds of Scottish practices offered interest-free premises loans

Hundreds of GP partners in Scotland who own their practice premises can now apply for interest-free loans worth up to 20% of their value under a scheme promised as part of the revamped Scottish GP contract.

GP premises (Photo: iStock)

Partners at 40% of practices in Scotland - around 380 practices in total - own their premises, and are being invited to apply for 'an interest-free secured loan from their health board of up to 20% of the existing use value of their premises'.

The loans would only be repaid 'when the premises are no longer used by the GP contractor for providing primary medical services under a contract with a health board or when they are sold', the Scottish government has said.

GP practices have until 12 December to apply for the first wave of loans, with applications to be approved first for practices judged to be in the greatest need.

Sustainability loan

Under the plans every GP partnership that owns its premises will be offered a 'sustainability loan' by 2023, with £30m made available by 2021 - the end of the current parliamentary term. These loans will be available even to practices in negative equity, and backed by additional loans from health boards 'in exceptional circumstances'.

GP leaders said the plans were a major step towards making general practice sustainable, and that the scheme will help to tackle a major barrier to recruitment and retention in general practice.

Scottish GPC chair Dr Andrew Buist said: 'Reducing the risks that act as a barrier to GP recruitment and retention is at the heart of the new GP contract. Scotland’s new premises sustainability loans are a key part of those efforts and will help to make general practice sustainable for the future.

'These loans will reduce the financial burden new partners must take on to buy into partnership and over the longer-term starts the journey towards a system where GPs will no longer be expected to provide their own premises. For practices that own their own buildings, this is one of the major benefits of the new GP contract and has been widely acknowledged as such by GPs across Scotland.'

Premises liability

Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said: 'We recognise that practice premises are sometimes seen as an unwanted liability by potential GP partners, and this has an impact on recruitment and retention.

'These interest-free secure loans will help reduce the risk of premises ownership and support a move towards GP contractors no longer being required to provide their premises.'

The Scottish contract agreement unveiled in January set out plans for 'a long-term shift that gradually moves towards a model which does not presume GPs own their practice premises'. By 2043, the contract envisages a model of general practice in which no GP owns premises.

Health boards in Scotland are expected to make contact with GP practices likely to be eligible for first-wave loans to support their applications.

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