Assura's chairman used his last set of results to call on the government to invest in primary healthcare to take the strain off the NHS as the healthcare property company reported rising annual earnings.
Simon Laffin, who steps down at the company's annual meeting in July, said the government had been slow to expand GP services despite general agreement that this was needed to ease pressure on hospitals. The NHS is Assura's biggest customer and accounts for more than 80% of the rent it collects from its properties.
Assura, which builds health centres that it rents out to GPs, reported earnings per share under the EPRA industry standard up 4.2% to 2.5p.
Laffin, who has been chairman for seven years, said: "It is widely accepted now that the NHS needs to leverage its investment in primary care more effectively in order to relieve the strain on secondary care and to reduce costs whilst improving patient outcomes.
"Although the policy consensus across all mainstream parties to increase emphasis and investment in primary care is more positive now than ever before, we remain frustrated by the slow progress in transforming policy into meaningful investment. Having more doctors and better leveraging their expertise through ancillary healthcare professionals will require more and better premises."
Laffin made his plea after the NHS emerged from a winter crisis that required undergraduates to fill labour gaps as the hospitals were buffeted by budget cuts, cold weather and a flu outbreak. Some politicians called for a wholesale review of options for NHS funding as ministers argued about how much money should be made available.
"When the government makes this change of emphasis, as surely it must, Assura will be well placed to assist by providing further private sector capital to enhance primary care premises, enabling GPs to provide more services and attend to more patients," Laffin said.
Assura's pre-tax profit fell to £71.8m from £95.2m as it paid £56m to repay £211m of expensive loans to Aviva using funds from a capital raising.
Chief executive Jonathan Murphy said: "We have delivered against our key objectives for the past year of growing the portfolio through acquisitions, strengthening the balance sheet to allow us to capitalise on the opportunities in our market and delivering sustainable returns to investors. Our unique model, which delivers significant value to the NHS, and diversified funding structure, positions us well to deliver the improvements needed for a primary care estate that is fit for the future."