NHS England confirmed the introduction of the market rent model, applying the property sector’s standard method of charging, to the National Health Service in January 2016. It was part of a long-planned move across the public sector to improve utilisation and value for money in property occupancy by putting publicly-owned property on a level with privately-owned alternatives.
The Department agrees that understanding the real cost of running public service buildings has benefits for tenants and the wider NHS:
- It helps the NHS understand the true cost of occupation and reflect these transparently;
- It informs decisions about the best location for services and investment; and
- It drives better and more efficient use of space.
Customer invoices should be based on accurate property information. This includes the precise amount of space used, as well as reflecting an assessment of the facilities provided for that space, e.g. cleaning, reception services and maintenance. This data was not always available in predecessor Primary Care Trust or Strategic Health Authority records.
NHS Property Services owns only a small proportion of general practitioner (GP) surgeries in England and its approach is consistent with the way those with private sector landlords are treated. The company has endeavoured to improve the quality of its property data and to negotiate and agree lease terms with customers, providing them with the assurance they require. Transparently agreeing precise occupancy details is one reason why some GPs, are
seeing their costs increase, while others have seen a reduction. NHS Property Services recognises a requirement from its customers to explain any billing changes fully and accurately. It shares their wish to make invoicing totally transparent and is focussed on this quality improvement work.
Within the Premises Cost Direction 2013 under sections 46 and 47 there is the facility for the GP to apply to NHS England for transitional funding related to large increases to service charges.
It is only by improved understanding of the true costs that better informed decisions about the best location for NHS services can be made, as well as also encouraging the most efficient use of NHS space – both of which are important elements of securing best value for taxpayers from the health service estate.