NHS England has signalled it will adopt a ‘strategic approach’ in its use of a £1bn fund for primary care premises, admitting that the first year of investment had been a ‘rush’.

  • NHS England will take a “strategic approach” to its £1bn primary care infrastructure fund
  • Director of primary care commissioning David Geddes says the first year of the programme had been “a rush”

The central authority first announced a £1bn fund for investment in GP premises in January. Practices were invited to bid for funding, which would be released in £250m tranches over four years. The successful bidders for the first year were announced in March, shortly before the pre-election purdah period.

The organisation’s director of primary care commissioning, David Geddes, admitted “this year was a rush”. He added: “What we want to be able to make sure… is that next tranche is not another tranche of a one year process.”

Speaking at a Westminster health forum event in London last week, Dr Geddes said the first year of the programme had been “focusing on trying to get a level up for some of the historic underinvestment that has existed in primary care”, but it would “take a strategic approach” in future.

“For the next three years, we’re not looking at this as being another three lots of one year funding… we’re looking at a three year strategy,” he added.

However, he said: “How the fund will be used in years two, three and four have not been fully drilled down and defined yet.”

“At the moment a lot of the focus of the team dealing with [the fund] is on this year’s [tranche].”

Dr Geddes said primary care investment has “often…been dominated by people who shout the loudest” with little oversight.

“We now need to work with the system… to ensure that the commissioner now is able to describe what it is that we want our local health organisations and health communities to look like.”

NHS England should support clinical commissioning groups to “define what the estates strategy will look like,” he said.

“That’s what we’ve got to get right if we’re going to be able to make the [NHS Five Year Forward View] programme deliver.”