GPs to get 50% subsidy if they base practices in NHS buildings

GPs based in NHS buildings will receive a helping hand paying their bills under a new scheme approved by health bosses.

By Chris Binding
Monday, 29 July, 2019, 06:00
Picture by PA

Sunderland’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) recently gave the green light to new ‘’practice subsidies’ to tackle GP pressures in the city.

This includes a 50% subsidy for any practices based in NHS Property Services buildings – calculated from the final bill – and extra help for practices looking to expand.

In practice, the payments aim to secure GP practices in the long term and prevent space in NHS buildings sitting unused.

While the CCG previously agreed to give subsidies to practices, the new plans will see practices on certain contracts receiving discounts “in perpetuity.”

Chief finance officer, David Chandler, outlining the plans to the CCG’s Governing Body on Tuesday (July 23), said the changes would provide “absolute certainty” for GPs.

“Putting that certainty into place seems to be a good idea both for practices but also for the CCG because as things stand, the CCG is responsible for voids for empty properties,” he said.

“So this is very much a win win.”

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

In recent months, CCG bosses said property charges were having an impact on services in the city.

This included unforeseen maintenance charges deterring practices from expanding due to fears of extra bills.

To overcome these ‘barriers’, Sunderland CCG will now offer additional subsidies to GPs looking to expand occupancy in NHS buildings.

However, handouts will only be given out on a case by case basis and are dependent on wider CCG plans for the city.

Director of nursing, quality and safety for the CCG, Ann Fox, said the subsidy changes would be a “key enabler” around providing care closer to home.

While executive GP, Fadi Khalil, agreed the plans provided “certainty and sustainability for general practice” and would “unlock some barriers.”

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Chief officer of the CCG, David Gallagher added: “It has taken a lot of thought and consideration to get to this point.

“The reason it’s really important is it’s not to do with member practices, it’s about strategic commissioning.

“This enables us to make better strategic use of the estate and to deliver the services we need to commission in Sunderland.”

Under the new scheme, practices would continue to be charged on the cost of running the building regardless of having a lease.

The main 50% subsidy would also be applied to the final bill – with practices still able to challenge individual NHS Property Services bills throughout the year.

Finance officer, David Chandler added the subsidies were key to ensuring the best use of NHS buildings.

He said: “These are purpose-built buildings for healthcare services and I think that’s what we want them to be used for.

“There’s a win win here, good services, good quality provision for patients and also a value for money benefit.

“What we don’t want is [buildings] standing empty or to be used for what I would deem as inappropriate purposes.”

For practices in non-NHS Property Services buildings there will be no change.

A NHS Property Services spokesperson said: “We always work with our tenants and local partners to help address affordability issues and are pleased that following constructive discussions with Sunderland CCG we have come to this agreement, which makes vital real estate and facilities services more affordable for local GPs.

“NHS Property Service’s remit is to support the NHS estate so that its people can deliver excellent patient care in modern and well-maintained facilities across the country.

“This agreement will ensure that we can recover these direct costs for providing essential services for the NHS in Sunderland such as cleaning and repairs.”