GPs have called on the council to refuse any planning applications for new houses as they struggle to cope with the growing demand.
Faversham Medical Practice has written a hard-hitting letter to the chief executive of Swale Borough Council Mark Radford to raise “serious concerns regarding the unsustainable pressures primary care is facing” in the town.
It comes as the practice, which provides services to around 14,500 patients, is locked in a dispute with NHS Property Services, which is owned by the Secretary of State for Health, over plans to increase its service charge from £15,000 in 2014-15 to £80,000 in 2016-17.
NHS England is insisting that the practice signs a new lease which will potentially expose it to the higher charges and has stopped the funding for a major improvement project, which is needed for the centre to expand and cope with the growing population.
The project was one of the only ones to be rated as high priority by Canterbury and Coastal Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
In the letter Dr Daniel Moore, senior partner at the medical practice in Bank Street, explains about the issues with the NHS.
“NHS England is insisting we sign a new lease in order to get this infrastructure funding.
“This means accepting the increased charges making the practice potentially financially unsustainable. Due to this internal bureaucracy, NHS England have stalled the project and this means that we are unable to deliver the transformation locally and are struggling to find space for any extra staff, leaving us very concerned about delivering safe services to any new patients.”
He goes on to say that they are “reluctantly” now considering that they will have no option but to close the list to new patients.
He added: “I am writing to ask Swale Borough Council to refuse any planning applications which would increase the housing stock in the Faversham area, and by definition increase the number of residents requiring a GP practice.
“It would not be safe to allow the population to grow in the area knowing that there is inadequate provision of primary care in the area.
“I am sure you will take this matter as seriously as we are and take immediate steps to safeguard the health of the local population.
“We are actively trying to resolve the bureaucracy that has caused this development to stall and remain hopefully that common sense will prevail.”
"We are very concerned about delivering safe services to any new patients.” - Dr Daniel Moore
A council spokesman said: “We have carried out significant consultation with the NHS and the borough’s CCGs in putting together our local plan which sets out how development will take place across the borough, and this is expected to be adopted by the end of July.
“Our policies require new development to either provide for, or make a contribution towards, health facilities to meet the needs generated by each development. The policy and formula was agreed with the health agencies and supported by the government’s local plan inspector.
“As planning applications are submitted for new housing development of more than 10 homes, we apply the policy and expect either provision on-site or a contribution in accordance with the formula.
“Whilst we understand and sympathise with the concerns raised, the council’s planning committee would be not in a position to refuse planning applications for new housing on allocated sites where the applicants are prepared to meet their generated health infrastructure for those that will live on the site.
“We would be willing to engage with all the parties concerned with a view to securing adequate and sustainable health services for people in Faversham, or elsewhere in the borough.”
An NHS England South spokesperson said: “If taxpayers are about to invest substantial new funding in upgrading surgeries it is right to ensure a long-term return on that investment. The Estates and Technology Transformation Fund criteria is clear that security through a lease is a key requisite for funding and all practices applying have to agree to this. Once agreed we remain fully committed to investment, subject to normal due diligence checks.”