Published: 12:00, 07 April 2017
A GP surgery in dire need of expansion to cope with the growing population has had its funding for building work frozen after refusing to pay a huge rise in charges.
Doctors at Faversham Medical Practice were left stunned when they were told that service charges for the building in Bank Street were going up from £15,000 in 2014-15 to £80,000 in 2016-17.
NHS England has now stopped the funding for a major improvement project after the practice refused to sign the lease following the price hike by NHS Property Services.
The organisation, which manages the health service’s estate, has come under fire across the country for the huge increases. Gaurav Gupta, a GP at Faversham Medical Practice, says they are not just unfair, but also incorrect.
“We had funding approved for a refurbishment of part of the health centre so we can continue to expand our services for the growing population of Faversham,” he said.
“Due to some of the internal issues with NHS England, the project funding has been frozen and the project put at risk.
“The main problem is NHS Property Services want us to sign a new lease which would mean agreeing to the service charges, which we do not believe are correct.
“If the project cannot go ahead, we would be in a very difficult position as we do not think it would be possible to cope with the growing population.
“There are thousands of houses being built around the town, which means thousands of people who will need a GP and without an increase in our capacity, we don’t know how we will cope.
“NHS England agreed that this is a high priority project for them, so it beggars belief that they are now jeopardising it.”
Dr Gupta says that the Canterbury and Coastal Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has been supportive and has written to NHS England.
The improvements at Faversham were the only approved project for the CCG’s first wave of funding and they too agreed it was a priority for the area.
The League of Friends of the Faversham Cottage Hospital recently donated £300,000 for an X-ray unit at the centre, but Dr Gupta says: “We need to make sure we have the infrastructure in place to secure its future.”
Chairman of the Friends David Simmons said: “Faversham Health Centre desperately needs investment to be able to meet the increasing demand of our growing community.
“The League of Friends have recently invested in the installation of X-ray facilities at Faversham Health Centre which has been very well utilised showing that there is a need for expansion of services in Faversham.
“We are disappointed that the funding for the infrastructure project is being delayed and would urge NHS England and CCG to resolve the issue as a matter of urgency.”
Dr Gupta added: “We are working closely with NHS Property Services and CCG to resolve these issues and get the project moving as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for NHS Property Services said: “We are in contact with Faversham Medical Practice to see how we can help their situation and we are in discussions with NHS England about what transitional support will be available.
“We have been getting better information about the space our customers occupy and this is one reason why some are seeing costs increase and others reduce.
“We want to explain any increases fully and make our bills more understandable. We know we’ve got some way to go on this but we are making improvements.
“Every penny we generate is reinvested back into the NHS.”
A spokesman for NHS England 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.”