Last October the Pershore Medical Practice in Worcestershire moved premises. At the same time, it switched landlord from its PCT to its local council and became one of the first GP practices in England to benefit from the new public finance initiatives.
In a deal that could become a model for future developments and provide a lower-cost alternative to private finance initiative (PFI) schemes, Wychavon District Council has built a centre that houses a 13-GP practice, a 26-bed hospital and a suite for NHS dentistry. The total cost was £6.7 million.
‘What we have achieved has blown the socks off the NHS,’ said Dr Chris Perks, the Pershore GP who has led negotiations between the practice and Wychavon council.
Five years or so ago the council was looking for better returns on the £40 million it raised in the 1990s by selling its housing. A rental income of 7 per cent or more would mark a rise of at least 3 per cent on its ‘prudently’ invested capital and allow the council to stay near the bottom of the national council tax league table.
As an elected body, however, Wychavon’s reinvestment plans were also informed by political principle.
‘Our three objectives for reinvestment were that capital should be used for regeneration, for community benefit and put to local use,’ says Jack Hegarty, Wychavon’s former head of planning and council managing director since April 2004.