The General Practice Forward View offered the following support to GP practices that are in occupation of NHS Property Services or Community Health Partnerships (freehold or leasehold) buildings and currently negotiating new leases with NHSPS:
This offer has been extended to 31 March 2018 to allow more time for GP practices to formally complete their leases. Practices will need to submit their completed leases and a cost contribution form to NHSE prior to this time to benefit for the funding.
If your practice is keen to benefit from this funding and complete your leases before the 31 March 2018, it is important that you receive proper advice on the terms you are signing up to. There is a standard NHSPS Lease reviewed by the BMA in circulation, however this provides a good starting point but should not be regarded as a final form of lease to be signed without taking advice to ensure it accurately reflects your individual practice's circumstances and requirements.
We would recommend you seek independent advice on your heads of terms (document recording the deal you agree with NHSPS) from a specialist healthcare surveyor who will check the accuracy of the figures and discuss the core terms suitable for your partnership. Once they are in agreed form the heads of terms are provided to solicitor who will ensure that the lease reflects the core principles stated in the head of terms.
If you want to benefit from the extended funding arrangements, you need to take action now to progress agreeing heads of terms with NHSPS in order to afford sufficient time to negotiate the actual lease and have this signed before the 31 March 2018.
NHSPS are keen to roll out "FR" (fully repairing) leases where possible to ensure they achieve full cost recovery for their buildings and the NHSPS Charging Schedules in circulation have been prepared on this basis. However, please note working with GVA Surveyors we have had some success in negotiating arrangements to be "TIR" - (tenant internal repairing) where the NHSPS building is older and in need of investment/repair (i.e. not new building health centres). A TIR arrangement usually results in lower day to day costs for the tenant (such costs are wrapped up in the headline rent payable) and represents the traditional health centre reimbursement position. It is therefore worth asking for TIR if this has not yet been offered to you.
Many of you in NHSPS premises occupy buildings which have not benefitted from a comprehensive programme of maintenance and repair over the years. We understand that there is a programme of improvement works being rolled out by NHSPS and that these are of a capital nature which will not be recharged to tenants. You have been in occupation of these buildings and know them better than anyone, so if there are specific works you believe should be carried out - we would recommend you notify NHSPS of these now and request they are included as part of the capital improvement programme. If they are not part of this capital investment programme and you do not secure a TIR arrangement (see above) NHSPS's costs in carrying out such works in the future may be recharged to you.
We understand that GP partners are having to make some difficult decisions about the future of their practices at the moment. We have a number of clients in various locations who have taken the difficult decision of deciding to hand their contracts back or go through a process of working out the cost implications of doing so and we have been supporting them through this process. What has become apparent from our work with these (and other) clients is that early advice is very valuable. We understand that there is usually a desire in such circumstances to keep costs down (so spending money on legal fees is not an attractive proposition) however if you get a process/notice period wrong particularly when dealing with staff issues or your exit from premises/contracts this can lead to substantial unanticipated costs, (including potentially greater legal costs) in sorting the situation out or result in you having to continue to pay costs for services or premises you no longer require beyond your planned end date for your business.
We are also advising on lots of mergers at the moment and can provide advice on the various things you will need to consider and organisations you may want to consult with if a merger is looking like an option for your practice.
We have a specialist Employment team and separate Narrow Quay HR Consultancy team here at VWV who can offer support where required and a full legal service team of partnership, property and commercial litigation solicitors who are available to assist with any other queries you may have.
If you have any queries, please contact Rebecca Beardsley in our Commercial Property team on 0117 314 5325, or complete our online enquiry form, and we would be happy to direct you to an appropriate member of the VWV team.