The government has extended the deadline for consortiums to reach financial close on its LIFT programme from a year to 15 months.

The move is announced in a report by the National Audit Office into LIFTs, the government's public-private delivery vehicles for building primary healthcare centres.

The report is generally supportive of the £1bn programme but notes that the government has recognised that its deadline has been too difficult to stick to. LIFT schemes work as public-private partnerships, with private construction consortiums sharing a percentage of the project’s equity in a new company, LIFTCo, with the government healthcare vehicle Partnerships for Health.

The quickest authorities to form a LIFT company have been Wigan and Leigh, in Lancashire, and Ashton in Greater Manchester. However, it took them 13 months.

The report said: “Although LIFT is still a quicker route than PFI, the timetable of 12 months for establishing the LIFT Co and completing negotiations for initial developments was too ambitious.

“As a result of its experience to date, Partnerships for Health has announced some changes for the planned fourth wave of nine LIFT schemes. The most notable change is an extension of the timetable to 15 months."