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Lack of cash for premises damaging patient care, say third of GPs

Cramped and inadequate premises limit capacity for appointments and extra services, finds survey

Caroline White

Thursday, 10 July 2014

One in three GPs says that the lack of investment in practice premises is damaging patient care, while around four out of 10 feel that cramped and inadequate facilities hinder the capacity to provide enough appointments to patients, the BMA has warned.

The warning follows in the wake of a BMA survey of just under 4,000 GP practices—around half of the total number in England.

The survey responses show that four out of 10 GP practices feel that their current facilities are inadequate, while almost seven out of 10 feel their facilities are too small to enable them to deliver extra or additional services to patients.

Almost six out of 10 GPs have to share consulting rooms or deploy hot desking, with just over four in 10 believing this restricts the number of appointments their practice can provide, and almost a third are concerned that it damages overall service delivery.

Just over half of practices have seen no investment or refurbishment over the past decade, and six out of 10 feel that their practice is not large enough to provide vital training and education for GPs and their staff.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who chairs the BMA’s GP Committee, commented: “GP practice buildings in large parts of England are in such a poor state they are beginning to seriously undermine patient care.

Far too many practices have seen no real investment in their buildings in the past ten years leaving them in cramped, unsuitable conditions that are hindering the ability of many to even offer basic general practice services. Practices also reported being prevented from relocating to more suitable premises because of a lack of resources.”

He added: “This puts a serious question mark over the government’s plans to move more care into the community as many GP facilities will not be able to sustain this extra workload. With the drive from ministers to move services into the community and out of hospitals, it is particularly worrying that seven out of ten GP practices are being held back from offering additional or enhanced services.”

This was particularly worrying, he said, because general practice was under incredible pressure as a result of rising patient demand, dwindling resources, and a shortage of GPs.

“GPs have given us examples of how their admin staff are having to work in portakabins, buildings without proper disabled access and with staff struggling to provide care in cramped and inadequate consulting rooms,” he explained.

He said there was an urgent need for long-term sustained investment to make GP facilities fit for the current challenges general practice faces.

Dr Gareth Williams, a GP in Northamptonshire, said that working in unfit premises let patients down because it restricted the services that could be offered to them.

“For more than 10,000 patients we only have car parking for six people, and have poor disability access, with half of the GP consulting rooms unreachable for disabled patients. Confidentiality is at risk, as the sound proofing is so bad we have to play loud music in the waiting areas so that consultations are not overheard,” he explained.

The BMA is holding a special GP premises roundtable event today in London in a bid to discuss how best these issues can be addressed. Attendees include health minister Earl Howe and representatives from the Department of Health and NHS Property Services.

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