The RCGP has called on chancellor Jeremy Hunt to address ‘unsafe’ GP premises with a cash injection of £2bn ahead of his Autumn Statement tomorrow.
This demand formed part of the RCGP’s ‘general election manifesto’, published last month, which listed seven steps for political parties to take in order to ‘save general practice’.
On Monday, the college also asked Mr Hunt to ‘redress’ the exclusion of general practice in the Government’s winter funding plans.
The Prime Minister announced a £200m pot aimed at easing NHS winter pressures in September – but RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said it is ‘disappointing’ that general practice was left out.
Professor Hawthorne’s demand ahead of the Autumn Statement – which provides an update on the economy and the Government’s tax and spending plans – cited figures first published in May showing that 40% of GP staff think their premises are ‘not fit for purpose’.
Among those who said this, 88% said there was an insufficient number of consulting rooms and nearly a third (32%) said their premises had poor disabled access, according to the college’s survey of 2,649 GP practice staff members.
As well as the call for investment of at least £2bn in GP infrastructure, the RCGP’s manifesto also proposed a national alert system to flag unsafe levels of workload, a new nationally funded retention programme, and a shift of NHS funding from hospitals towards general practice.
Labour criticised the plan, with shadow health secretary Wes Streeting telling the college that his party ‘won’t entertain requests for blank cheques’.
On GP infrastructure, Professor Hawthorne said many GPs are working out of buildings which ‘in some instances, frankly, are unsafe’.
She said: ‘We’ve heard stories from GPs of temporary portacabin extensions now in their 18th year of use with rotten walls and cramped consultations rooms. Our members have told us of leaky rooves and draughty windows.
‘These are conditions which you would not associate with 21st century healthcare, but they’re the reality for a substantial number of practices in the UK, and make neither for a safe or healthy environment in which to work, or deliver care to poorly people.’
The college chair also highlighted that these ‘significant failures’ also pose a ‘serious risk’ to the NHS long-term workforce plan because practices may not be able to accommodate the increasing number of GP trainees.
Professor Hawthorne added: ‘Our funding asks are not a luxury, but a necessity. In the shorter term, some of these actions are important just to help the NHS to get through this coming winter.
‘But longer term, there are areas of investment which are absolutely necessary to ensure we are able to care for patients in surgeries that are safe and fit for purpose.’
Sarah Powell, head of patient services at a group of GP practices in Yorkshire, said their main site is a converted house acquired in the 1960s, and they now see a ‘litany of structural issues’.
‘The older parts have frequent leaks, damp walls and build ups of mould on the inside. Our staff room has a leaking gutter pipe attached to it and water soaks through the walls – the smell of damp can be very unpleasant and a source of distress for our team members and some patients,’ she said.
Ms Powell also highlighted that they have expanded the workforce via ARRS meaning ‘suitable space is now even more difficult to find’.