NHS property charges hitting GP practices in Sunderland, health boss says

editorial image

Fees and charges around using NHS buildings are putting a strain on Sunderland GP practices, a health boss has claimed.

NHS Property Services was set up by Government in 2013 to manage, maintain and improve 3,400 NHS-owned buildings.

As part of the changes, Primary Care Trusts were replaced with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to plan and buy-in healthcare services.

However, NHS Property Services- as the landowner – have powers to charge operators using buildings for health services.

Members of Sunderland’s CCG have heard that property fees were having an impact on services and acting as barrier for GP expansion.

Local GP and chairman of the CCG’s Governing Body, Ian Pattison, said while charges were a “national problem”, around 20 practices in the city were being put at risk.

Speaking at the city CCG’s recent Primary Care Commissioning Committee at Bede Tower, he revealed experiences of the fees at his own practice at Southland Medical Centre in Ryhope.

“It’s an absolute travesty. We would like to occupy further rooms and we can’t so it’s preventing the practice from taking a registrar. Patients are suffering,” he added.

“These buildings were bought and paid for using the city’s money and now we’re unable to use those facilities and I think if the public were aware of it they would make quite a damning assessment.”

NHS Property Services requests annual or quarterly payment for rent, service charges and facilities management –  the cost of maintaining space and repairs.

In recent years, the firm announced additional funding was being provided to CCGs to cover increased costs following a move to market rent.

While GPs’ rent, business rates, water and clinical waste costs are reimbursable, extra leases and and subsidies were raised as issues at the meeting.

Following discussion, health bosses backed calls for a representative from NHS Property Services to attend a meeting in future..

Chairman of the committee, Patricia Harle, said this would include both “an update on the situation and how it can be resolved.”

A finance report, presented to the committee, added a £100,000 reserve has been sidelined for “premises pressure” for any further property assessments.

For more information, visit: www.property.nhs.uk

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service