GP premises: a national disgrace
Shocking Pulse figures reveal that over 1,000 UK practice buildings are not fit for purpose
By Anna Hodgekiss
A Pulse investigation has
uncovered the shocking and deepening scale of the GP premises crisis.
At least one in seven practice premises in the UK – well over 1,000 in total – is officially unfit for purpose, figures from 175 primary care organisations show.
In some areas, almost all premises are sub-standard. Three out of five PCOs said at least one of their GP premises was inadequate.
The total of 1,092 unfit premises from those PCOs that supplied figures is far worse than past data has suggested.
Statistics for 2004/05, the last to be collected by the Department of Health, showed that 652 premises in England and Wales were below minimum standard.
Extrapolating Pulse's figures to all 343 PCOs in the UK would take the total closer to 1,500.
London is the worst affected area, with 522 premises deemed unfit by the capital's 31 PCTs.
Birmingham, Bristol and Bradford were also suffering. In Scotland, Grampian and Ayrshire and Arran were worst hit of those that supplied figures.
Flintshire was the worst area in Wales and the Northern Board had the highest numbers in Northern Ireland.
Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator for premises, said the
results were further evidence that the Government was 'spending peanuts on premises'.
He added: 'This means GPs cannot take on the broader role delivering services at a fraction of the cost of secondary care. It's total short-termism, as usual.'
PCOs said they were planning 389 new-builds and 338
refurbishments or extensions during the next two years. Only 12 per cent of these will be done through the NHS Lift scheme.
But GPs were sceptical that these plans would come to fruition. They also questioned some PCTs that said they had
no inadequate premises.
Dr Paul Roblin, chair of Thames Valley LMCs, queried Reading PCT's claim to have no unfit premises. He added: 'You can have as many plans as you want, but nothing is happening. GPs I know have given up trying to get anything done.'
Another PCT claiming to have no inadequate premises was Portsmouth. But Dr Stephen McKenning, chair of Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southeast Hampshire LMC, said he knew of several local practices desperate to relocate because they were 'stuffed full'.
A spokesman for the DoH said it was 'helping the NHS open 125 health centres by the end of this year'.
• Are your premises unfit?
E-mail us a picture that shows
just how bad they really are.
The worst affected areas
(no of inadequate
In London premises)
Barking and Dagenham 33
Heart of Birmingham 51
Ayrshire and Arran 34
Bristol South and West 24
Brighton and Hove 23
Cramped, stuffy, leaking... just a typical GP surgery
Dr Phil Speakman is typical of the thousands of GPs blighted by having to work in unfit premises.
The flat roof on his 1970s-built practice in Buckley, Flintshire, leaks. The waiting room is tiny.
Freezing in winter and boiling in summer, the building is claustrophobic and lacks ventilation.
Staff have to decamp to a portable building to do their admin. This began 14 years ago as a temporary move, but is still going strong.
Plans to develop the site have been vetoed by district valuers. They said a staged redevelopment – whereby the practice continues to operate – was too expensive. Plans to integrate two sites have also foundered.
Dr Speakman said: 'I started the ball rolling in 1996, but we're now back to square one.
'We can't take on any more services or staff and we struggle for rooms. We were only able to incorporate diabetic retinopathy because a partner was on holiday.'