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CAMHS won't see you now

Commissioning warning

GPs have attacked the Government after it released figures showing 700 practices in England are unfit for patients.

Health minister John Hutton told MPs last week that

7 per cent of surgeries, including 395 in London, failed to meet minimum standards.

Mr Hutton said the Government was supporting a huge programme to modernise GP premises.

But GPs said an extra £108 million investment pledged in August would only cover 'a fraction' of the practices operating in cramped conditions with poor lighting, heating and ventilation.

Premises experts added that a failure to increase funding for notional rent meant many GPs found it impossible to make capital investments.

Dr Stewart Drage, GPC negotiator and joint secretary of London-wide LMCs, said the Government had the power to improve premises and should stop talking in 'perjorative terms' about how bad many of them were.

He added that private finance initiatives were impossible for many practices because they were 'in areas where nobody wants to touch them with a bargepole'.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in north-west London, where 31 premises failed to meet Government standards, said his practice 'fell below the minimum specification in terms of room size'.

'In north-west London we have been left with grossly inadequate funding,' he said. 'We were better off under the old system when we were able to improve our premises and get an increase in notional rent.'

Dr Peter Gill, a GP in Manchester, said delays to funding meant 12,000 patients at his practice were still having to endure overcrowding and lack of disabled access. The practice is based in a cramped terraced house and GPs have to treat disabled patients in their cars. It has finally had PCT funding for a PFI deal with Sainsbury's approved, six months after building was due to begin, Dr Gill added.

Dr Mike Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said the crisis was the result of 'long-term under-investment'. He added: 'I think there has been a tendency for money to go first into LIFT projects or glitzy-looking PFI projects.'

By Cato Pedder

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