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Health commissioners and local planning authorities must collaborate in the wake of Covid-19


By Paul Wakefield
Planning partner at Shakespeare Martineau
21 July 2020

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By Paul Wakefield, planning partner at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau

Global pandemic aside, many primary care providers have been operating at full capacity for many years. As the population increases, so does the pressure to meet care and quality targets. At the same time, the service is continuously faced with financial penalties, despite already being underfunded.

The devastating effects of Covid-19 have, however, further emphasised the need to redefine the healthcare sector. This means the door has never been more ajar than it is now for providers to seek increased financial contributions from property developers.

Where primary care providers are likely to be impacted by a new residential development and they do not have capacity on their roll to accommodate new patients, the only solution is to expand. An influx of new patients into a GP surgery is bound to put pressure on the service, requiring them to grow their workforce and potentially add another treatment room, wing, or location.

This is something the developer should be paying for. Where a new residential development is planned, factors such as the number of units or homes and the development population are all part of the equation around how much funding the healthcare provider is entitled to.

Take action to secure funding’

Recent planning reforms have brought with them the removal of the pooling restrictions around the community infrastructure levy (CIL) regulations. These were introduced in 2015 and only allowed care providers to receive funding from up to five agreements. This drastically limited the overall contributions GP practices and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) could receive, and forced them to weigh up those which would be most financially viable.

Now the cap has been removed, providers can seek provision from as many agreements as necessary, where the development will impact on their services. Regardless of whether a care provider specialises in primary or secondary care, it is critical that action is taken to secure any opportunity for funding.

CCGs and GPs should therefore be monitoring for new developments, engaging with the planning process at an early stage and responding to applications in a timely fashion, as and when they come in.

Primary care providers should also be engaging with planning policy at a local level, as and when it is formulated, to make sure that it supports the financial requests that they may be considering submitting as new developments crop up. Ultimately, the opportunities are available to ensure care providers can cope with the impact of development and support the healthcare system when it counts, but engagement is key.

‘Collaboration is key’

Where the day-to-day care of patients takes priority, it can be easy for administrative tasks to slip under the radar. To ensure that primary care providers are in the best possible position to take advantage of this way of securing funding, resourcing is essential. It may be necessary to employ consultants to keep up to date on any changes to policy and applications, so that these can be actioned as soon as possible.

More than ever before, local planning authorities and housing developers should be working in conjunction with healthcare providers to secure necessary funding for these all-important services. Cross-party collaboration is key to successfully securing healthcare contributions and ensuring the future of our healthcare service is robust enough to withstand whatever the future may hold.

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