PCTs must ask councils for premises help

Another week, another tale of GPs left stranded in unsuitable premises because of funding cuts, PCT confusion or a general unwillingness by government to accept that its community-focused health vision cannot be delivered in the current primary care estate.

This week it is Worcestershire PCT that is the villain. It seems that practices in Kidderminster who had funding for new premises under their old PCT have been told that this may no longer be the case ‘due to the changing position from the DoH regarding central allocations’ by the newly merged Worcestershire PCT.

Has the cost of merging been so great that it has eaten up the whole premises budget, we are left wondering? Or have only debts and not funds been merged? Certainly the need for premises investment has not been reduced at the same time as the number of PCTs.

But it is not all bad news in Worcestershire. By coincidence another of the GP practices within the PCT area, the Pershore Medical Practice, is enjoying its new surgery thanks to the Wychavon District Council. It seems that while PCTs’ premises budgets are trickling away into other funding blackholes, new regulations will allow local authorities to invest in projects such as building GP surgeries and cottage hospitals which they can then let back to GPs or PCTs.

The advantage of the local authority-financed schemes is that the rent is lower for the GP

practices and that the profits remain in the

public sector — all good news for tax-payers.

Much was made of PCT reform bringing health authority borders into line with councils to allow the different bodies to work together more easily. This is an excellent opportunity for PCTs such as Worcestershire to put this to the test by working with local authorities to develop more innovative premises schemes like Pershore rather than sticking to the current policy of hand wringing and cuts.

If such collaborations proved successful we should all consider what else local authorities could teach PCTs.

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