Arrangements will be considered next week for two new GP surgeries for the Spring Hill and Lower Clapton Group Practices to be provided on council-owned land.
Under the plans, Spring Hill would move into vacant light industrial premises to the rear of Belfast Road near Stoke Newington Overground station, while Lower Clapton Group would relocate to the Grade II-listed Portico building on Linscott Road.
According to a council report on the so-called Primary Care Capital Project, both will receive 20-year leases on the surgeries which will be “of sufficient size and quality to provide much improved healthcare”, with the council receiving a return on the borrowing underpinning the project through regular rent payments.
A joint statement from Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville and health lead Cllr Chris Kennedy said: “Both of these practices are currently operating from old premises that are not fit for purpose and are undersized to deliver the improved healthcare desperately needed in Hackney, and through this project will come from these larger and more modern facilities.
“Since the inception of the project there has been the recognition that the development of the two new surgeries on council-owned land is likely to be financed by borrowing and hence each scheme would need to be financially viable as well as sustainable.
“All involved have worked very hard to bring forward an agreed design option for each site and the partners of each practice have agreed heads of terms for a new lease of 20 years on each surgery when completed.
“Subject to planning and the two projects each proving viable the council will be committed to delivering the extra health capacity these two surgeries will provide for our residents in locations where the NHS has no other options.”
Spring Hill is currently working out of a portakabin-type structure and two converted flats, with its lease due to expire in September 2022, with Belfast Road the only long-term option available to the practice.
Meanwhile, Lower Clapton Group’s move to the Portico, which had hosted Hackney Learning Trust in its contemporary extension but is now vacant and starting to decay, comes just as its patient list has expanded beyond the capacity of its existing 1960s premises due its taking on of patients from the Sorsby practice which closed in 2019.
The council hopes that Lower Clapton’s move to the Portico will help the redevelopment of the “key Hackney site”, the former entrance to the London Orphan Asylum, and site of Martin Creed’s public artwork Everything Is Going To Be Alright back in 1999.
Spring Hill’s future in its current site also looks uncertain, due to the redevelopment taking place on the Guinness Estate on which it is based potentially resulting in the loss of the practice if its lease was not renewed.
The hope of the joint working between the borough and CCG is to provide two surgeries which will be “future proofed” against expected increases in demand for services over the next 15 years.
While the council does have a legal duty to improve the health of its residents, the report on the project notes that there is no obligation on the borough to develop primary care surgeries or to “plug the gap left by underinvestment by the NHS in primary care”, but goes on to state that the projects will not only support “vital services” but will bring two vacant sites back into productive use and provide a steady repayment stream of the development cost and construction risk through rent repayments.
The council report adds: “Primary care surgeries are still seen as a niche asset class although there is strong investor appetite for the properties. The long lease commitments typically of 15-20 years are in demand. The practice’s contracts involve their rents being reimbursed by NHS England effectively giving these investments a government covenant.
“On the basis the viability test can be met, the two surgeries will be a sensible long term investment for the council which can be added to the commercial property investment portfolio, adding diversification to the council’s income.
“The council could sell the sites but would forgo all the advantages delivered by the two schemes and it would be difficult to control the future uses of the sites which may impact negatively on neighbours and residents.”