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ICBs get power to fully fund upgrades of GP premises

ICBs get power to fully fund upgrades of GP premises
By Eliza Parr
14 May 2024

The Government has made long-awaited changes to GP premises cost directions (PCDs), which will allow commissioners to fund 100% of upgrades.

After ‘almost a decade of pressure’ from the BMA, the Department of Health and Social Care published the new PCDs last week – cementing changes that were first agreed years ago as part of the five-year GP contract.

The doctors’ union said these were ‘positive steps’ for GP premises owners but warned that there is ‘a very long way to go’ since there is no extra investment for ICBs.

The PCDs regulate how GP premises are funded, and updated regulations now allow commissioners to give out improvement grants of up to 100% of the project value, whereas before the limit was 66%.

The previous 2013 regulations included a now-removed clause which said: ‘Where the financial assistance is by way of a premises improvement grant, the [commissioning] Board must not commit itself to covering less than 33% or more than 66% of the total cost of the premises improvement, plus any Value Added Tax for which the contractor cannot claim a refund.’

Commissioners, including ICBs, will now also have ‘new powers’ to better support GP contractors with their premises costs, according to the BMA.

This includes flexibility to take over liability for leases, to help with last-partner-standing situations, it said.

The GP Committee England premises lead Dr Gaurav Gupta said this update has ‘been in the pipeline for many years’ and is ‘good progress for members who have been patiently waiting’.

‘We’re pleased to see positive steps to help GP premises owners, and any partners aspiring to buy into property-owning partnership in advancing their services to provide the best possible care for patients.’

However, he warned that there are ‘no additional funds going into ICB budget lines’.

‘The PCDs have changed, but commissioners will likely tell GPs they lack any new resource, meaning patients are unlikely to see the necessary and long overdue transformation of GP surgery premises that are so desperately needed,’ Dr Gupta said.

He added: ‘The past decade has seen us caring for an additional eight million patients, with over a thousand practices lost, and record numbers of appointments.

‘It’s clear to patients and GPs alike that we must push Government and NHS England for significantly greater investment into general practice premises.’

A GP surgery staff survey by the RCGP last year saw 40% describe their premises as ‘unfit for purpose’, describing problems including an insufficient number of consulting rooms, poor disabled access, leakages and mould.

Yet almost three-quarters of the staff who requested funding to upgrade their premises over the last year were unsuccessful in obtaining it.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister publication Pulse.

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