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 – who is 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 record-breaking 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 currently 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.
Currently 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 now 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.