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Premises scheme cancellation

Q: Our six-GP partnership has been planning to build a new medical centre. The PCT had agreed to pay notional rent, but warned us verbally last autumn that financial constraints could compromise the project. In February, it wrote to us stating its board no longer supported our scheme without giving a reason and refusing further discussion. We owe £100,000 for architect/legal/project management costs and so on. Our requests for the PCT to contribute have been ignored. Can we appeal against the PCT's decision? Can it ignore communications? Can the BMA provide some help?

A: This is a difficult area, as premises costs reimbursement for new schemes has become largely discretionary. All undertakings from PCTs must be in writing, and made binding on successor organisations. There are commercial companies that will handle premises costs appeals for an agreed sum.

Other approaches include using the NHS contract disputes procedure or even a civil action if there has been a breach of contract. What you do will depend on how enforceable the PCT's promises are.

You can also complain to the PCT's chief executive under the Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009. You can refer the matter to the Health Ombudsman if still not satisfied.

The PCT's statutory obligations are to patients, rather than providers. You may have to involve the media and your MP to put pressure on the PCT.

The BMA will always offer advice (including formal legal advice) to members and direct them to other sources of help where necessary. Your LMC can also advise, particularly with regard to the PCT's contractual and regulatory requirements.

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