Burnhams Surgery: Ensuring NHS patients get a great service

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Burnhams Surgery has found an innovative way to move premises, take on more patients and attract new GPs.

Social Problem

England has a critical shortage of GPs. Numbers have fallen for the last five years in a row[1] and many GPs are working increasingly long hours, often seeing 50-60 patients a day. Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, told the Guardian that “The fact that general practice is under such enormous pressure means it can’t deliver the patient-centred services that it wants to. Many GPs are even finding it challenging to maintain a safe service.”[2]

Solution

There are many reasons for the GP shortage. One problem is the way that many GP practices are funded. The GPs finance the premises, so any new doctors joining the practice have to buy a stake in it, which often means taking out a large loan.

Burnhams Surgery has taken a different approach. A new charity has been set up, Burnhams Surgery Community Healthcare Trust (BSCHT), which has taken out a loan to fund new premises. The old building has been sold, paying off existing borrowings.

Loan

Two substantial legacies, totalling around £1.5m, were left for the benefit of patients of the Burnhams Surgeries. These have been paid to BSCHT. However, the charity still needed a loan to cover the balance of the building costs. BSCHT explored numerous options to no avail. Thankfully, the developers recommended Charity Bank, and we were able to lend BSCHT £1m, plus provide a short-term bridging loan of £480,000 to cover the reclaimable VAT.

The charity will lease the premises to Burnhams Surgery to cover the loan repayments, and the rent will be paid by NHS England.

Impact

Burnhams Surgery’s old premises dated back to the 1960s. The building was far too small to cater to the growing population and no longer met NHS standards. The new modern premises are much larger and more comfortable for both staff and patients. Burnhams Surgery has already been able to appoint two new GPs to the practice and take on the running of a neighbouring practice. It’s also been able to increase nursing provision and has plans to create a new support service for dementia patients, under the provisions of one of the legacies.

“Charity Bank was a breath of fresh air. We'd had such a depressing series of interactions with other banks. Even just trying to open a bank account was like pulling teeth – it was awful. So we were feeling fairly dejected and cynical, but we had a completely different experience with Charity Bank. We could actually talk to a real person rather than leave messages that no one would ever respond to.”

Malcolm Bailey, Trustee of Burnhams Surgery Community Healthcare Trust

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,100 loans totalling over £400m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.