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Red tape holding up crucial GP premises improvements

The Welsh GPC has blamed cumbersome grant-application procedures for holding up plans to carry out vital improvements to hundreds of rundown family doctors' premises in Wales.

The latest estimates are that as many as three quarters of the country's 700 surgery buildings are in drastic need of upgrading, at a cost of £100m.

But only 13 of the Local Health Boards (LHBs) have submitted successful bids for money to finance the modernisation programme since a special fund was set up four years ago, meaning that Wales has fallen behind England and Scotland with one new build for every LHB compared to an average of more than four in England.

Welsh GPC chairman Dr. David Bailey said the massive amount of detail required by the Welsh Assembly Government from LHBs meant in some cases it had taken three years for submitted bids to be approved.

Dr Bailey, a GP in Trethomas, Wales, said: ‘This is becoming, increasingly, a huge issue in Wales. It reflects historic under-investment over many years. But certainly we would be in a better place now had we got the procedures more organised.'

He added: ‘I wouldn't want to say these surgeries are unsafe but it is difficult to practise first-class quality medicine when there is no examination area, or no room to have practice nurses in place.'

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said it was necessary for bids to be detailed because the administration was accountable for the public money it spent.

But he added: "We anticipate that all the money set aside for 2008/9 will be fully spent on improving GPs' premises. We expect that now LHBs have completed their Primary Care Estate plans, we will receive an increasing number of bids."

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