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New funding for premises
Last week NHS England announced the launch of a £1bn investment in primary care premises, which is part of additional funding announced to support the NHS Five Year Forward View. To take advantage of this fund for an Improvement Grant, GP practices must complete an application form issued by NHS England.
This funding will finally enable practices to progress previously submitted proposals for premises improvement and development. However, this is only where they extend the practice and offer new clinical services in line with the ambition set out in the Five Year Forward View.
Primary Care Infrastructure Fund
NHS England is inviting bids for the 2015/16 tranche of the Primary Care Infrastructure Fund which will be the first of a four year investment to accelerate improvements in GP premises and infrastructure.
In a letter from Dame Barbara Hakin, National Director: Commissioning Operations, GP practices are invited to submit bids for funding by 16 February 2015. She highlights that General practice is the bedrock for the NHS, but recognises that it is increasingly under pressure across the country. These pressures are being addressed at long last and work is going ahead to deliver on the promise of a new deal for primary care, whilst also doubling the level of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund to £100m.
Must be cost effective
When procurement under LIFT was introduced a few years ago there was concern that it might lead to funds being diverted away from other primary care needs. However, Dame Hakin makes it clear that all capital proposals submitted under the Primary Care Infrastructure Fund will need to demonstrate how they will offer more patient contact time as a result, and help reduce emergency admissions by the frail and elderly.
A year ago there was a lot of talk about moving services out of hospitals and although many GPs wanted to expand and develop their services, lots of GPs were, and still are, working in cramped and unsatisfactory premises. Some have also struggled with their CQC inspections, but unfortunately they had previously been caught between a rock and a hard place. The GPC also stepped up its campaign for more investment to be made in premises last year, with a demand for £250m worth of investment in 2014, so they will be pleased at this announcement.
It’s about time
There hasn't been anywhere near adequate support for premises development for many years and no way of realistically expanding out of hospital services, without the space in which to do so. This new funding stream could in the long term yield benefits for Practices if the new primary care strategies and the property requirements to deliver them are aligned. It is essential for Practices to be able to access and take advantage of expanding primary care opportunities in order to provide effective and safe patient services, and vital that a coherent estates strategy is in place to back it up.