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Friday, July 19, 2019

Review into closure of Nottinghamshire GP practice

PUBLISHED:

A Government-owned company will be asked to provide answers after a dispute over charges was blamed for a GP surgery pulling out of its contract.

It is feared that similar problems could happen at other GPs across the county.

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In November, Whyburn Medical Practice in Hucknall, told the NHS it would be handing back its contract, giving the minimum notice period of six months.

Work is ongoing to find a replacement firm to run the contract, with an announcement on the winning bidder expected in March.

A meeting on February 12 heard one of the major factors was a long-running dispute with a Government-owned company called NHS Property Services (NHSPS).

The controversial company was set up in 2013, and owns around 10 per cent of the NHS’s land, including Whyburn, in Curtis Street, Hucknall.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has said NHSPS implemented “astronomical increases in service charges and facility management fees,” and that it was “no surprise that some practices are not simply handing over cash they do not have”.

When Whyburn Medical Practice (WMP) closed, it said: “For several years, WMP has been subject to a large increase in the service charge relating to the NHS Property Services owned building that it resides in, leading to a dispute.

“These highly inflated charges and other business issues have resulted in the business becoming financially unviable.”

The meeting heard several other surgeries were having similar issues to those faced by Whyburn and are potentially at risk of closure.

But NHS Property Services (NHSPS) said its charges have remained stable.

Now, the health scrutiny committee at Nottinghamshire County Council has said it will ask the company to give evidence on what is happening.

The leader of the committee, Councillor Keith Girling, who represents Newark West for the Conservatives, said: “I will write a letter to NHS Property Services to invite them to come to one of our meetings, and we can find out what their strategy is for messing up the NHS in Notts.”

Conservative councillor Kevin Rostance represents Hucknall West, where the surgery is based.

He said: “This has caused absolute chaos, and it still is doing.

“It beggars belief that a property company can impact provision like this. The issue was so extreme that it was one of the main reasons they couldn’t continue.

“It seems bonkers that people’s health in Hucknall can be affected by property services.”

David Martin, who represents Selston for the Ashfield Independent Party, added: “Why was it allowed to get to this stage? Why were they allowed to take control in such a destructive manner?”

Dr James Hopkinson, chairman and clinical lead of the Nottingham North and East clinical commissioning group, said: “NHS Property Services is a big issue, and it’s a national issue. This was solved as efficiently as possible, but it still took a long time.

“It caused a lot of anxiety and stress to the partnership.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Property Services said: “Service charges and facilities management charges have remained relatively static at the property since 2015.

“In 2015/16, the Department for Health and Social Care and NHS England agreed NHS Property Services would charge customers the actual running costs associated with their buildings.

“In some cases, this led to a change in the level of funding GPs could claim for from their commissioner.”

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