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Ministers fall short on GP premises target

The Government is almost certain to miss its target to

replace or refurbish 3,000 decaying GP premises by the end of next year, new Department of Health figures reveal.

The NHS chief executive's annual report showed just 1,389 GP premises were renovated between April 2000 and December 2002, leaving 1,611 to complete in the next 18 months. Plans for 500 new primary care centres are also behind schedule, with just 184 so far built.

Dr Grant Kelly, chair of the GPC practice premises subcommittee, said the Government would only meet the

target if it started counting

minor refurbishments of GPs' premises.

But he added delays in the contract had held up new developments because GPs were unsure how they would be funded in future.

'Even if there's a Yes vote I'd not expect a dramatic rise until December,' he said. 'If the contract is voted in, the money flows. How long that takes is another matter.'

A spokesman for the department insisted it would meet the target.

The chief executive's report also showed GPs narrowly missed the first key benchmark for the controversial 48-hour access target.

In March 2003, 88.2 per cent of patients were able to see their GP within two working days. The NHS Plan target was 90 per cent.

More than 90 per cent of practices offered an appointment with a primary care professional within 24 hours.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC negotiator, dismissed the results as 'statistical game

playing'. He said: 'Most GPs don't do it. The department is just messing with figures.'

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