Dozens of GP practices are considering legal options related to premises owned by NHS Property Services (NHSPS).
Several surgeries in the south of England are currently taking legal advice in response to new terms that may be less favourable.
The new conditions of payment are set to formalise huge service charge hikes that have been experienced throughout the NHS system.
This has naturally drawn strong opposition from surgeries and healthcare professionals.
The terms in question have been negotiated with the British Medical Association and distributed among health organisations across the UK.
But many practices contest the new terms, while some have even been handed charges for services that have not been rendered.
LMCs have stated that the new arrangements will result in 10% of practices within the English NHS system being unsustainable.
Around 20% of GP practices nationally are in NHSPS properties, meaning that, incredibly, around half of these premises are currently under threat.
Considering the gravity of the situation, many surgeries believe that legal action is the only recourse.
Lawyer Nathan East, of Weightmans, suggested that mismanagement and dilapidated buildings are common in surgeries managed by NHSPS.
“While [NHSPS] is saying, ‘we are now commercial and would like to run the estate as such’, there are significant issues for tenants if in trying to achieve [that] they are being required to pay for services that there is no contractual agreement to pay. Occupiers are understandably saying, ‘we have never paid for these services and as it’s your asset, you should pay for it'”.
East suggested that the current situation was effectively deadlocked at present, and this is why practices had chosen to take legal action.
“So, there is a bit of an impasse. Part of the pressure is created by the fact that NHSPS was always supposed to be self-funding. So, the only way it will acquire the money to make the necessary repairs, is from its occupiers.”
With general practice already facing massive pressures, it seems that this sort of dispute over buildings can only exacerbate an already challenging situation.
A spokesman for NHS Property Services defended the approach of the organisation, and indicated that a dialogue was taking place with surgeries concerned about the issue.
“We are working closely with NHS England and Faversham Medical Practice, where subsidy arrangements have changed, to see how we can help their situation. Nationally, we have been getting better information about the space our customers actually occupy and this is one reason why some are seeing costs increase and others reduce.”
The spokesman also indicated that NHSPS is attempting to be as transparent as possible.
“We want to explain any changes 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.”