General Practice: Large Housing Developments — [Peter Dowd in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 29th March 2022.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner 9:30 am, 29th March 2022

I completely agree with my right hon. Friend and I defer to his expertise on education. I would add that an element of retrospection is needed, because many of those new housing estates have already been rolled out in our constituencies. The new infrastructure levy cannot be just going forward; there is an immediate deficit that we need to remedy.

The system is broken, and that is the reason I have been campaigning on the issue and have called this debate. Contributions from section 106 funding or from the community infrastructure levy often go to provide other facilities rather than for health. The guidance states:

“It is helpful if the Director of Public Health is consulted on any planning applications (including at the pre-application stage) that are likely to have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of the local population”.

I do not think it is “helpful”—it is absolutely essential. It should be a requirement that leads to a clear outcome of additional ring-fenced health funding to employ and accommodate the necessary GPs and practice nurses that the area’s population requires.

I have good support in my request. When I put that point to the Prime Minister on 5 January this year, he replied:

“Yes...my hon. Friend…is completely right: we cannot build new homes without putting in the infrastructure to go with it.”—[Official Report, 5 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 20.]

I can quote no higher authority, Minister.

My argument is that no new infrastructure is more important than looking after the health of the existing and new population in an area. At the moment, the system is fragmented and uncertain, in that we might be lucky and be funded through section 106 money or we might be lucky and get it from the community infrastructure levy. Again, we might be lucky and get what is needed from the housing infrastructure fund. If we are fortunate, the local authority might come to the rescue, or it could be that Treasury funding to the Department of Health and Social Care will do the job. My CCG tells me, however, that capital funding from the Treasury for new general practice capacity appears too late to be of any use in making a sensible forward plan, and disappears equally quickly.