The government owned company that manages thousands of primary care premises has reduced its capital spending forecast by £60m compared to last year’s plans, HSJ has learned.

  • NHS Property services forecasts capital spending of £90m in 2015-16
  • Follows £150m predicted last year and actual capital spending of £81m
  • GPs and commissioners frustrated by bidding process for funding

NHS Property Services has planned for its overall capital spending to be £90m in 2015-16, compared to forecast spending of £150m in 2014-15. The figures were released in response to a freedom of information request.

As previously reported, actual spending was only £81m last year, which sparked criticism of the “slow and bureaucratic” process for assessing and approving bids.

The spending forecast is split into day to day maintenance and more significant work, such as a new building or refurbishment. The reduction falls within the day to day maintenance forecast, which is down from £115m to £52.5m.

Property Services took over the strategic estates management for 4,000 primary care and other NHS buildings from disbanded primary care trusts in 2013.

Its capital budget is used to develop these facilities, and it is widely accepted that there is a need for major development of primary and community care facilities.

Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said many surgeries find it difficult to secure adequate funding for routine costs, and claimed the latest forecasts were “clearly part of a wider cost saving mechanism”.

An Property Services spokesman stressed the company is “only one piece in the jigsaw” for getting major schemes approved, as NHS England and clinical commissioning groups also set some of the processes.

He said it has “more control” over the capital spending for day to day maintenance, and added: “As a relatively new organisation, we are constantly refining and improving our systems and processes and it’s fair to say that in 2014-15 we effectively overestimated how much the NHS system was ready to proceed with.”

Amanda Doyle

Central bodies are taking ‘positive steps’, Amanda Doyle said

There has also been frustration from CCGs about the new processes.

Amanda Doyle, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said: “We know from our members that they have previously struggled to get bids through the system due to a lack of coordination or slow process between all parties including Property Services, Community Health Partnerships and NHS England.”

She said there were signs of “positive steps” being taken by the central bodies, which will allow CCGs to accelerate plans for investment. Dr Doyle also called for any new approach to be streamlined and transparent.

When HSJ previously asked Property Services what would happen to the unspent money from 2014-15, a spokeswoman said it “rolls on”.

The company said last week any unspent money allocated to capital “is not lost” to the Department of Health, as was the case under PCTs.

When asked to explain what the money would be spent on instead, Property Services said: “NHS Property Services does not receive direct funding (from the DH) for ongoing capital projects. Only in a direct funding model would there be a ringfenced pool of money that would roll over from year to year until the money was spent.”

It added that Property Services regularly reviews the capital requirements and forecasts of the estate and “self-funds the spending from our own resources”.

See related files for the company’s full statement.