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MP hits out over NHS service charges

FORMER Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has hit out at NHS England bosses for not backing down on proposed service charges.

The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale spoke out after a local medical group in hs constituency was hit with a planned £25,000 increase in service charges.

Mr Farron said similar proposed charges would make it difficult for local rural surgeries to remain open – depriving residents of a vital service.

  See also: 'Write to your MP over hospital transport'

Earlier this year, the Central Lakes Medical Group were hit with a proposed £25,000 increase in service charges at its Ambleside site in his Cumbrian constituency.

The proposed increase was due to a change in how the property of the NHS is managed, said Mr Farron.

"The proposed increase in service charges has left a dark cloud over the future of several of our local GP surgeries," he said.

It follows the taking over by NHS Property Services Ltd (NHSPS) of ownership of many NHS Community and Primary Care buildings.

Since then, surgeries throughout the country had seen a huge increase in service charges, Mr Farron explained.

The increases were because NHSPS had changed the basis on which it charged surgeries – including a 10% management fee for managing the costs of the building.

Tim wrote to NHS England asking what is being done to address a "serious drain on front line funding".

But Mr Farron said he had received "absolutely no assurances" about the site at Ambleside.

The response failed to mention the surgery even once in the three-page long response, he added.

"The fact that they didn't mention the site at Ambleside even once in their three-page long reply is a joke."

The government must re-think the changes," said Mr Farron.

Pushing them through would make it impossible for local surgeries, like Ambleside, to stay open.

This would will leave "rural communities up and down the country left without a vital local service".

In its response, NHS England said it would be undertaking a joint review of a number of cases.

It said that some instances where surgeries are having to pay increased services charges were down to "inaccurate invoices".

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