For those GP practices with premises development in the offing, it may be frustrating to hear that the Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) will not become statutory bodies until 1 July 2022, and not 1 April 2022 as originally planned.
It is anticipated that the ICBs will be able to hold property making them, from an estate’s perspective at least, quite distinct from the current clinical commissioning groups.
Back in 2019, NHS England and the British Medical Association carried out a number of reviews to identify the barriers to effective service delivery in relation to general practice estate. One major issue was around concerns for prospective new partners joining the partnership and then being left a few years down the line, as the 'last partner standing' holding all the liabilities on an onerous lease.
Many have hoped that the ICBs could provide a solution here. For example, they could be an intermediate tenant as a buffer between the investor landlords and the GP practice, taking the risk from the start of a new development. Alternatively, ICBs could act as a tenant of last resort taking the lease from the 'last partner standing' allowing that partner to walk away as their predecessors have done.
On a hopeful note, potentially the short delay will give all parties more time to consider the role of the ICB in respect of primary care estate and particularly, for those developments already approved by the CCG and progressing at the risk of the GP partners. This would give comfort to those partners to enable them to press on with much needed new premises.