• Finchley Memorial Hospital has been underused since it opened in 2013
  • CCG hopes financial inducement will fill empty GP space in its community hospital
  • Service charges for the primary care space proved prohibitive without subsidy

A north London CCG has resorted to offering subsidies to persuade a GP practice to move into a community hospital site.

Barnet Clinical Commissioning Group has struggled to find a GP practice willing to move into the primary care space in Finchley Memorial Hospital since the site was opened to patients in 2013.

“The site was developed on the basis that a GP practice would part-occupy the unit,” according to Barnet CCG committee papers. But “the relatively high service charge” of more than £39,000 a year for the primary care space has put off practices from moving in.

The CCG has now been compelled to offer its GPs a financial support package to move in. It noted the cost of such a package would be offset by the saving it would make from not having to pay the building owners, Community Health Partnerships, for keeping the rooms empty. 

The package will cover a portion of the service charges as well as several one-off costs, including removals and project management. It will also cover the cost of scanning patient records and external record storage for a year.

This offer was put to every GP in Barnet in April last year. Three practices have agreed to work as a “multispeciality community provider” at FMH, working alongside services provided by Central London Community Healthcare Trust.

The arrangement is currently subject to a public consultation, which will run until February. The plan as it stands is for one of the GP practices, Ravenscroft Medical Centre, to move into FMH, closing its premises two miles to the south in Golders Green.

If the GP practice moves in as planned, all but 5 per cent of the building will be occupied and the void costs will be £200,000 a year.

“FMH has been underutilised since it was built,” the CCG said in a statement. The CCG has been working to bring services into the site over the past three years.

“With the opening of a number of new services the void costs have fallen,” the CCG said, adding it considered the 5 per cent unoccupied to be ”a reasonable level of unleased space, which will provide the health and social care system the flexibility to provide other services or to run health campaigns”.

FMH was rebuilt between 2010 and 2013 as part of a local improvement project, with a brand new facility replacing the Victorian cottage hospital in 2012. The original buildings were torn down in 2013.