News & Media

It’s the little things

20.06.2017

Sometimes, it’s the little changes that make a big difference.

Like some of the work we do to improve buildings for our GP tenants: helping them sort new flooring in a high-traffic corridor. Turning one office into two with some clever reconfiguration. Making sure the outside of the building looks as welcoming as the inside.

The next changes to NHS GMS Premises Costs Directions are another great example. Long-awaited but – so go the rumours – finally ready to be signed off as ministers finally get back down to business in earnest.

There’s a key change we’re looking for to help projects for new GP surgery buildings move more quickly – giving doctors the space and infrastructure they need now, rather than having to struggle on in their current buildings for years to come. At the moment, the premises cost directions don’t allow for capital funding contributions for new building development. That means that neither the (much welcomed) Estates and Technology Transformation Fund (ETTF) nor traditional premises improvement grants have a mechanism to support new surgery building projects – even though we know many GPs are operating from former residential properties which just aren’t fit-for-purpose.

Demand has been huge for ETTF.  Deloitte estimates that applications for 2016 were four to eight times oversubscribed, while research by the BMA says 86% of initial bids to the fund were to extend or improve buildings, or to develop brand new premises. However, analysis claims that only 5% of the fund has been allocated to premises so far.

From what we’ve seen on the ground, one of the blockers to getting that ETTF money out of the door for premises lies in those constraints around new builds. Allowing a portion of these funds to go into new development projects – albeit with a cap – will help to unlock this, with CCGs striving to keep revenue costs affordable on better buildings. It’s still a tricky and lengthy process, but it’s a logical step if government wants to get ETTF funding flowing more quickly to projects where it’s so urgently needed.

Getting the primary care estate fit for the NHS of the future is a whopping task. Get these sorts of funding mechanisms right, and more GPs will have the buildings they need.