Legal ruling forces NHS England U-turn over GP rent appeals

NHS England has been forced to back down over practices' right to appeal changes to notional rent after 'landmark' rulings by the NHS Litigation Authority.

The litigation authority ruled that NHS England failed to communicate and co-operate locally with a view to resolving valuation disputes with five practices as required by regulations, and that it could not impose a timeframe on practices to dispute changes to rent arrangements.

NHS England attempted to impose a three-month deadline for practices to challenge changes to rent reimbursements, but the watchdog said commissioners could no longer do this.

Practices should instead be allowed the three-year window allowed by the GMS contract to appeal against decisions, the litigation authority said.

GP rent appeals

Experts said the case would ensure practices are given a fair timescale to appeal reimbursement changes.

NHS England said it plans to take ‘appropriate action’.

Paul Conlan, operations director at GP Surveyors, which brought the cases on behalf of its clients, said: ‘Over the past year we have taken on an increasing number of notional rent appeals where NHS England has refused to enter into local negotiations.

‘NHS England reasoned that this was because the practices had not opened the disputes within the three-month timeframe which was outlined in letters to the practices following their reviews.

‘However we have always reaffirmed that GP practices have three years to appeal their notional rent following a review due to the regulations outlined within the GMS contract.’

The contract states that practices and commissioners must make every reasonable effort to communicate and co-operate to resolve the dispute for for referring for dispute resolution.

GP contract

‘This means that NHS England must endeavour to discuss and resolve notional rent appeals at a local level. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the matter can be referred to the NHS Litigation Authority to follow the NHS dispute resolution procedure,' said Mr Conlan.

The litigation authority said: ‘One party cannot impose a timeframe which restricts the ability for such appeals to be discussed and resolved at a local level because this is inconsistent with the regulations.'

Mr Conlan said: ‘These landmark cases will help to ensure that GP practices are given a fair and reasonable time scale in which to appeal their notional rent – that is consistent with the regulations. 

‘We are now calling on NHS England to amend their standard letters to reflect the outcome of these determinations. We also advise any GP practices who have not checked their notional rent reimbursement due to the three-month deadline stated by NHS England, to contact their specialist surveyor for a second opinion.’

An NHS England spokeswoman said: ‘NHS England is considering the outcome of the appeals and plans to take appropriate action.’

Photo: Geoff Franklin

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