Three Kent GP practices housed in outdated buildings are ‘at risk of eviction in the next 18 months’, but plans for new premises have met opposition.
The surgeries in Elmdene, Greenhithe and Ivy Bowe, run by Swanscombe and Bean Partnership and Temple Hill Group, are currently housed in buildings ‘not fit for the provision of primary care in the 21sth century’ and have been hoping to relocate to a new health centre.
But plans for the new building, which have been submitted to Dartford Borough Council, the planning authority, have been facing opposition by residents and local councillors due to the position and size of the development.
A design and access statement submitted as part of the application said that current room utilisation at the surgeries is ‘over 100%, forcing clinicians to wait for rooms to become vacant’ and requiring staff to have to use the buildings ‘when they are officially closed’.
Kent and Medway ICB identified this as a priority area in their Strategic Estate Plan in 2016, and now two of the three premises currently in use are ‘at risk of eviction within the next 18 months’, ‘potentially depriving patients of access to primary care services’, the document said.
It said: ‘The existing premises owned by these GP practices are very old with numerous problems including poor parking, limited disabled access and small substandard waiting and clinical rooms. In summary, the buildings are not fit for the provision of primary care in the 21st century.
‘The partners at these practices have been seeking a property solution to the unique issues they are each facing including the significant population growth in this area, lack of capacity in their current practice estate and uncertainty about the future leases of the properties they currently occupy.
‘Several options have been previously assessed and sites identified but unfortunately various attempts to progress plans have failed to date.’
The statement added: ‘The current premises are limiting the practices’ ability to achieve their strategic ambitions, or those of their PCNs.’
Swanscombe & Greenhithe Town Council said it recognised the need to expand the provision of medical services available to residents but had ‘severe reservations’ regarding this proposal, including the design of the building not being ‘in keeping with the area’.
Residents opposing the plans said that a new health centre for the local community is needed, but it will create traffic and parking issues.
A resident commenting on the application said: ‘Another concern I have is the lack of qualified healthcare workers. Currently we can’t get appointments because there are not enough doctors and not because there are not enough rooms.
‘Many practises have empty consultation rooms. The sector is under strain – you can build
what you like but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be full of doctors just waiting to be booked.’
A spokesperson for NHS Kent and Medway told Pulse: ‘All patients will continue to have access to their GP practice while the new medical centre is developed. The business case for the centre is being prepared and the planning application forms a key part of this.’
According to a survey by the RCGP earlier this year, four in 10 (40%) GP practice staff describe their premises as ‘unfit for purpose’.