Min­is­ter urged to back £5bn in­vest­ment in GP surg­eries

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By

Rus­sell Lynch

MIN­IS­TERS are be­ing urged to back a £5bn spend­ing spree on new GP surg­eries all over the UK to help the NHS cope with fu­ture pan­demics and kick­start the econ­omy.

The call comes in a let­ter to Robert Jen­rick, the Com­mu­ni­ties Sec­re­tary – cur­rently under pres­sure for in­ter­ven­ing in a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion by Richard Des­mond, the ty­coon and Con­ser­va­tive donor – from the UK’s big­gest de­vel­oper of pri­mary care prop­er­ties, such as surg­eries and den­tists.

Harry Hy­man, chief ex­ec­u­tive of PHP, was re­spond­ing to Mr Jen­rick’s call ear­lier this month for pro­pos­als on “shovel ready” build­ing projects to spur growth in the wake of a record­break­ing re­ces­sion.

The founder of the FTSE 250 busi­ness ar­gues that the Gov­ern­ment could un­lock up to £5bn in pri­vate cap­i­tal to in­vest in schemes – typ­i­cally cost­ing around £5m each – and po­ten­tially de­liv­er­ing or up­grad­ing up to 1,000 health cen­tres across the coun­try.

PHP is set to in­vest around £750m on new build­ings over the next five years, but said the pro­gramme could be mas­sively ac­cel­er­ated if min­is­ters com­mit­ted £300m a year in rent on the new fa­cil­i­ties.

PHP’s listed peer As­sura and a host of other pri­vate de­vel­op­ers could step up to de­liver the pro­gramme of projects, which are “shovel ready and can be com­pleted at pace,” Mr Hy­man said. “It’s not like build­ing HS2,” he added.

The NHS spends around £500m a year on pri­mary health­care build­ings but the prop­erty en­tre­pre­neur warned that the ex­ist­ing sys­tem would come “under more strain than ever” han­dling a back­log of pa­tient ap­point­ments fol­low­ing the out­break.

He said: “Ev­ery­body now ac­cepts that more spend­ing is needed on health­care to make the ser­vice more re­silient. We should be push­ing at an open door. We have got this mas­sive back­log of out­pa­tient con­sul­ta­tions and vis­its to the doctor that peo­ple have been stor­ing up be­cause they have been too pet­ri­fied to leave home.”

Jonathan Mur­phy, chief ex­ec­u­tive of As­sura, said: “Reg­u­lar things that are usu­ally done in hos­pi­tals are hav­ing to be done in pri­mary care, and that is only likely to in­crease.”

The Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted to an ex­tra £100bn in in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing over five years in its elec­tion man­i­festo but has al­ready spent more than £130bn on its re­sponse to Covid-19, push­ing the deficit to a record level.

Re­search for The Daily Tele­graph sug­gests at least £4.1bn worth of “shovel-ready” in­fra­struc­ture projects are in the pipe­line.

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