• NHS Property Services facing legal action from doctors’ union
  • British Medical Association says GPs are given “unjustifiable” estates fees
  • GPs owe NHS Property Services more than £170m in rent

The British Medical Association will take the much-maligned NHS property company to court over fees charged which the union describes as “unjustifiable”.

According to the BMA, GPs leasing buildings from NHS Property Services have seen their charges rise – sometimes double – despite no formal agreement being made between the parties.

The union also said some practices have been billed for services they are not receiving, such as a surgery being billed for a lift that didn’t exist and others for payments that have already been made to the local authority.

It hopes its court action will provide a “template” for GP practices to defend “unlawful” claims for service charges by NHS PS.

NHS PS said it could not comment due to purdah, and referred HSJ’s request for a response to the Department of Health and Social Care. 

The dispute between GPs and NHS PS has existed since the property company was set up in 2013 to manage estate formerly owned by primary care trusts.

NHS PS has only agreed leases with one third of its tenants, and many GPs dispute the bills they are sent by the company. A report by the National Audit Office this summer revealed GPs owe NHS PS £173m in back-rent. This amounts to around 30 per cent of NHS PS’ debt, even though GPs only use 18 per cent of the company’s estate. 

However, NHS PS does not have the same powers as a commercial landlord – such as being able to evict tenants or take legal action – which has contributed to the company running a deficit every year.

Earlier this month the Public Accounts Committee said the “whole system needs to work together far more effectively to find a solution” and claimed the company had been “set up to fail”.

But the BMA claims many GPs are not given a “clear breakdown” of what their charges relate to.

The union’s chair of its GP committee Richard Vautrey will tell a conference today: “It’s not acceptable that practices in NHS PS premises are left to pick up the cost of an unjustifiable hike in charges.

“We will stand up for GPs and take legal action when it’s necessary to defend our profession.”

 

HSJ Strategic Estates Forum

The HSJ Strategic Estates Forum, now in its 3rd year, takes place in London on 12 March 2020. This is a high level strategic forum that brings together estates directors, sustainability and transformation partnership estates leads and trust board leaders responsible for the estates function who are developing strategic plans for their organisations and local health economies. The focus of the forum is on issues such as availability of and access to capital, tackling backlog maintenance, utilisation of the estate and role of technology in infrastructure development. The forum builds on the Naylor Report and highly anticipated 2019 spending review.

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