Practices at risk of steep rent rises

Nearly 80% of PCTs do not have signed leases for all of their GP premises, leaving practices at risk of steep rent rises when PCT estates are transferred to a new management company.

Dr Grewal: negotiations are being conducted to tight deadlines
Dr Grewal: negotiations are being conducted to tight deadlines

Of 132 PCTs responding to our Freedom of Information request, 104 (79%) do not have signed lease agreements for all GP premises they own or for which they are the head leaseholder. In total, 542 GP premises across the 132 PCTs are without a signed lease agreement, equivalent to about 8% of all practices.

Northumberland Care Trust has no signed leases for any of the 19 GP premises it owns, while North Yorkshire and York PCT has none for the 13 GP premises it owns. Leases for Gloucestershire PCT's 10 GP premises have now expired and have not been replaced.

The map below shows the responses of the 132 PCTs out of the existing 152 which responded to GP’s freedom of information request.

The questions GP asked of each PCT were:

  • How many GP premises does the PCT own or hold the head lease for?
  • The number of GP premises that are owned by the PCT (or held under a head lease by the PCT) for which there is no signed lease agreement with the practice operating out of those premises.
  • The number of such GP premises for which there is no signed agreement relating to service charges.

View PCTs' lease and service charge agreements in a full screen map

Londonwide LMCs' medical director Dr Tony Grewal said PCTs now had the 'DH breathing down their necks' to ensure they have formal agreements in place before next April.

Dr Grewal fears that practices will not have time to negotiate a fair deal. 'Negotiations with PCTs and practices are being conducted under high pressure to tight deadlines,' he said. 'We are running out of time.'

The GPC is concerned that there is little information available on NHS Property Services Limited (PropCo), which will be taking over the management of PCT-owned GP premises.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'All we can do is prepare for the worst and ensure we get the relationship with PCTs written down. The government has made no assurances to us about PropCo.

'With the Health Act, there is a risk that elements of what the PCTs do now will be compartmentalised and sold off.'

GP's investigation also revealed that 446 GP premises have no signed agreement relating to service charges.

Dr Vautrey said practices without signed lease agreements are liable to face problems, including steep rises in rent and service charges.

'If PCTs are slow in responding to finalising agreements, practices need to put pressure on them,' he said.

Lynne Abbess, partner at specialist medical solicitors Hempsons, said 542 was a 'huge number of leases to get into place in a short time'.

'The problem has arisen because practices might be holding expired leases, or nothing has been formally recorded,' she said. 'Once they are in occupation, the urgency to formalise the relationship is lost, not least as GPs have other contractual relationships with their PCT. In April this will change and in most cases that relationship will be with PropCo.'

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