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A programme funded by the taxpayer is being used by doctors to receive "millions of pounds" from their surgeries, an investigation has discovered.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Daily Telegraph have compiled a report that claims a 'notional rent' programme allows GPs to purchase buildings used for their surgeries, then 'rent' them back to the Department of Health for amounts higher than the mortgage repayments.
Once a GP retires, the surgery is then sold off with the profits from the sale of the building going into the doctor's pocket, it claimed.
The investigation revealed that GPs have boasted of using the system to make six or even seven figure amounts.
James Wharton, a Conservative member of the Commons Public Accounts committee, accused GPs of "fiddling the system" and said he would ask the National Audit Office to open a "full and comprehensive investigation" into surgery funding.
He said: "People are obviously going to be extremely concerned to see that taxpayers' money is being used in this way.
"For too long these people have profited too easily at the expense of the taxpayer and the government should look at this system and see whether it can be changed to ensure better value for money."
The cost of premises is currently more than £630m, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said.
This would be an increase of 70% since 2004, when the NHS paid out £370m.
A Department of Health spokesman said in a statement: "This system incentivises GPs to expand and improve services so that people have proper access to modern facilities.
"It represents the cost to GPs of renting or owning the premises, and is a cost that would met by government direct if GPs did not."
Copyright © Press Association 2011
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"I would happily move into "free" new NHS owned and run premises tomorrow from my current converted victorian house – if such premises existed – I and the other 5 local practices have tried over last 10 years but the NHS/private partnership developer wanted 50% higher rents for less actual accommodation in terms of floor space – because of course new build costs more than old converted buildings – no money in PCT for GP practice premises and 5 practices couldn't afford cut in their incomes that move would entail so stalemate. Local NHS would pay increased costs of move other than "guaranteeing" existing notional rents as their contribution to "development" Young GPs with domestic mortgages didn't see why they had to subsidise NHS out of their take home pay. Conservative MP giving GPs a bashing should get his facts straight before making a fool of himself in public? I wonder if he'll apologise now he knows GP's have been providing the NHS with cheap accomodation for the last 60 years. New expensive purpose built NHS accomodation – yes please bring it on – making "profits" out of notional rent – first few years I made a loss – mortgage higher than notional rent – OK last 10 years mortgage has been less than notional rent – but then what about repairs and renewals – where do those funds come from – profit of course" – Dr Nigel Dickson, Southampton