GP representatives today threatened legal action as practices were revealed to owe millions of pounds to the agency that owns their premises.
In recent years, the NHSPS has increased its fees dramatically and has made a number of financial mistakes, GP leaders say.
The BMA threatened legal action as a critical auditors’ report highlighted the management of GP premises as a key problem – highlighting millions of pounds in outstanding debt.
At the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting in Belfast today (26 June), Dr Richard Vautrey, the Chair of the BMA’s GP committee, is due to say: “For years now some practices have faced astronomical rises in service charges, some seeing theirs more than double, often for services they have not asked for and do not receive.
“This is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue. And so I can tell you today that the BMA has sent a letter of claim to NHS Property Services and if they do not give us an acceptable response we intend to take them to court,and we intend to win.”
Before today, the BMA has repeatedly asked for an explanation of the fee rises, and now believes NHSPS is acting unlawfully.
Dr Vautrey will also say: “In Scotland the agreed premises loan scheme has got under way and even been invested in further as it is being taken up by so many practices. But in England, as our survey showed, only half of practice premises are suitable for current needs and 80% of GPs say their premises won’t cope with future needs and population growth.
“We cannot respond to the growing needs of our patients and an expanding skills workforce if we don’t have practice premises fit for the future and government must act.”
The National Audit Office today says GPs owe 30% of the organisation’s outstanding debt – although they occupy 18% of its property. This represents a sum of more than £170 million.
NAO head Gareth Davies said: “The Service has slowly improved the way it manages its NHS properties. However, more than eight years after being created it still lacks the powers it needs to run its affairs effectively, and the accuracy of bills is still disputed.
“In our view, too many NHS organisations and GPs seem to regard paying for their premises as optional, with almost £700 million either written off or still unpaid. The system for charging for NHS property is not working effectively and the Department urgently needs to address the fundamental causes of this unsatisfactory situation.”
Dr Vautrey responded: “Specifically, in recent years, GPs leasing buildings from NHS Property Services have seen their service and maintenance fees rise astronomically with no agreement and no proper explanation. It is only right then, that GPs do not pay these fees that could risk the very future of their practices and the ability to provide care for patients.
“Indeed, this timely report, which helpfully highlights that there is no legal right or power to collect these payments, comes as we announce that we have written to NHPS asking it to urgently address the service fee issue or we will consider legal action.”