Template lease for GP practices agreed with BMA

John Westwood, Director of Asset Management at NHS Property Services.

by Alex Cameron

NHS Property Services is pleased to announce that it has reached agreement with the General Practitioners Committee of the British Medical Association (BMA) on the terms of a standard lease template for the many undocumented GP practices within the NHS.

NHS Property Services can now complete the process of agreeing leases with around 1,000 undocumented GP occupiers, giving both landlord and occupier clarity on their rights and responsibilities and on the space and services used by the occupier.

GPs will now be able to agree leases in the confidence that terms have been agreed by the BMA and with the added incentive of a package of financial support from NHS England for those who sign a lease before 30 November 2017. The package includes contributions to Stamp Duty Land Tax, VAT, legal costs and service charge management fees.

The process of documenting occupations will save money for the NHS by identifying vacant space and provide the certainty needed for the NHS to commit to investment in modernisation or replacement of GP premises. Leases will inform decisions about effective and efficient ways to deliver patient care.

The agreement completes negotiations between NHS Property Services, the BMA, NHS England and the Department of Health that started in September 2013. The agreed lease template applies standard property industry practices to the special circumstances of GPs, aligning their property commitments to the length of their core contract with their commissioner and to their expectations for reimbursable property costs.

John Westwood, Director of Asset Management at NHS Property Services, comments: “Although this formal approach is very different from what many of our GP occupiers have known in the past, we have found broad agreement on the principle of establishing rights and responsibilities through leases. GPs want to be sure that they have the facilities to provide contracted services.

“This is a major advance and we are grateful to the BMA for their contribution. Many of the properties we inherited from Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities had been occupied on a casual basis. This documentation will ensure that we and our occupiers have the same understanding of the space they occupy – including access, shared and common areas. It provides a platform for planning future needs, so that we can help tenants manage space better, deliver services in a different way or identify extra services that might be needed.”

NHS Property Services owns and manages about 10% of the NHS estate, including about 11% of NHS GP practices. Other GP practices will be in buildings owned by their partners, by private sector property companies, by Community Health Partnerships or by hospital trusts.

Agreement of a standard lease is only one step in the documentation process. NHS Property Services is surveying all buildings and preparing accurate, consistent floor plans. Agreement will be reached with all occupiers on the space occupied or used and the basic terms on which it is occupied, such as the appropriate level of rent and the length of a tenancy. In the interests of achieving consistency across the estate, terms will not be tailored to individual occupiers any further than is absolutely necessary to fit their circumstances.