UNCERTAINTY over the future of the NHS is one of the reasons for the refusal of GPs to agree to move to a new doctors surgery in Winchester city centre.

The doctors of St Clements have yet to strike a deal with the city council over transferring to the proposed £4 million building which has planning permission for the corner of Friarsgate and Upper Brook Street.

The surgery, with some 16.000 patients, is currently in Tanner Street and is due to be redeveloped in the Silver Hill 2 scheme.

But doctors are also worried about their own personal liability over a 21-year lease the city council is offering.

Alex Fitzgerald-Barron, senior parter at St Clements, in a statement, said: “St Clements has been working with a number of parties for over 15 years to secure a new fit for purpose and medical facility to provide care in the heart of Winchester for the coming decades.

“The council requires security prior to embarking on this project, having established planning permission and spent many hours along with the practice negotiating the plan.

“There are a limited number of options currently available to us within the current partnership model, and we are working to understand what the best option will be, both for the practice and the patients we look after. Whilst we appreciate this is causing some uncertainty and frustration, we remain committed as a partnership to finding a solution and a way forward for both our staff and our patients as soon as possible.

“General practice is facing many challenges nationally, including recruiting and retaining staff. This has been caused by a workload that is becoming increasingly unmanageable, a lack of certainty about the future of general practice, and the current partnership model, the current way in which doctor’s practices are set up. One of the problems in terms of recruiting new partners is the risk and liability of signing a 21 years lease on premises for which you become personally liable for.

“The practice continues to believe the partnership model offers the best continuity and bespoke care to the patients it serves, but it has been undervalued and neglected in terms of updating the model fit for 21st century patterns of working."

CHRONICLE COMMENT: A little more give and take needed if we're to get a new GP surgery >>>

Dr Fitzgerald-Barron added: “The Government has commissioned a review into the partnership model chaired by Dr Nigel Watson, a Hampshire GP and Chief Executive of the Local Medical Committee. This review will report with recommendations by the end of the year. It is envisaged that solutions to this risk will be recommended. Scotland NHS have already underwritten this risk.

“We apologise for the frustration this has caused to all parties, but remain optimistic. Everyone’s continued support and momentary patience in this is hugely appreciated and valued.”

Cllr Caroline Horrill, city council leader, in response, said: “Thornfield originally proposed to construct a new surgery as part of the original Silver Hill scheme. When Thornfield collapsed the council wanted to ensure that a new surgery was built in Winchester city centre and in June 2011 Cabinet confirmed its agreement in principle to the use of the Upper Brook Street car park as a location for a new surgery building for the St Clements practice.

“Architecture PLB were engaged to design the surgery, which included provision for a pharmacy and planning consent was initially granted in July 2012. Consent for a revised design was granted in March 2016 and following the termination of the Silver Hill Development Agreement, at Cabinet in March 2016, Cabinet decided that it wished to continue with the development of the surgery in order to progress a project which served the interests of the health of local residents - a high priority for the council.

“The council approved the construction of the new surgery at Cabinet in September 2017 and £4.2 million has been included in the Capital Budget to enable the new surgery to be built.

“The council have proposed terms to the doctors for a 21 year lease to cover the capital build costs, which will recoup the investment over this period. This project serves the interests of the health of local residents - a high priority for the council. We are looking forward to hearing from the GPs in the near future regarding their decision.”