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Half of GP practice buildings are not fit for purpose, BMA survey reveals

Only half of GP practice buildings are fit for purpose, a new BMA survey has found.

The survey of over 1,000 English GP practices reported eight out of ten said their premises were not suitable for ‘future needs or anticipated population growth’.

GP leaders said the findings are in line with what GPs have been saying for years, but now they have evidence to show just how serious the situation is.

The survey found that on average, GP premises are 35-years old, having been first built or converted in 1984, and given the last significant modification took place in the mid-2000s, patient demand and population growth have not since been considered.

The report said: ‘Only half of practices said their premises were suitable for present needs.

‘Around eight in ten practices said their practices were not suitable for future needs or anticipated population growth’

GPs said practices need more space, including more consulting rooms to manage a growing patient list, improved access for disabled patients, and expanded and improved patient waiting and reception areas.

The survey also found that of those respondents who said they applied to NHS England for improvement grants, most reported waiting three to six months to receive information on the status of their application, while others reported waiting more than two years, with the process ongoing.

Eight in 10 practices leasing from an NHS organisation said they had been invoiced with inaccurate charges in the last year, and only 5% reported these issues had been resolved, the report added.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘GPs have been telling us for years that their practice buildings are not up to scratch, and now we have evidence showing just how serious the situation is.’

‘GPs who lease their buildings from the NHS face their own set of problems, with rocketing and unwarranted service charges and management fees often not met with adequate maintenance. At a time when GPs are facing extreme financial pressures, these unilateral price rises could push practices to the brink,’ he said.

With NHS England due to publish the GP premises review, Dr Vautrey said he hopes it will provide ‘solutions to the problems persistently raised by our members’.

‘More broadly the government must use next month’s spending review to urgently invest in practice premises – as well as wider NHS infrastructure – to bring facilities up to 21st century standards and ensure that GPs and their colleagues throughout the health service can guarantee the best care now and in the future,’ he added.

Bournemouth GP partner Dr Roberta King said: ‘When I started in 1991, we had 7,000 patients. That has grown to 15,000. We have been looking for a new site to rebuild for the past ten years but it’s just been impossible. Even back then we realised that we didn’t have enough space and we have continued to grow.’

‘I would love a bigger building where we can offer all the services that patients need in one place, with district nurses, physios and all staff under one roof. All this talk in the long-term plan of social prescribing and a recruitment drive for more NHS staff but I have no idea where I am going to put them – that is just not happening in my practice,’ he continued.

Tracey Rymer, practice manager at Byfield Medical Centre in Northamptonshire, said: ‘NHS England are looking for practices to form primary care networks and share resources such as paramedics and other health professionals.

‘We do not have room to share this resource – we are constantly having to juggle rooms to accommodate our staff. Our dispensary is unable to take advantage of cheaper bulk ordering as we don’t have enough storage space. 

‘We have put in two bids to NHS England for funding for a new practice but were told on each occasion we were not a priority despite having the backing of our local group of GPs.’

Last month, four in ten patients revealed their GP practice premises makes them anxious or stressed.