A GP practice caring for 13,000 patients in Leicester is expected to remain closed for at least three months after its roof collapsed due to ‘catastrophic’ flooding.
Around 40 members of staff and patients at East Leicester Medical Practice had to be evacuated from the building on 22 June, when a downpour caused the roof to fail.
The practice issued a message to patients which said that ‘due to catastrophic flood the building is closed until further notice’. The premises, owned by NHS Property Services, have been shut ever since.
The practice’s senior partner Professor Azhar Farooqi said that the building, which was built in the early 1970s, ‘has been poorly maintained for many years’, and in the past had problems with a leaking roof, broken-down boilers and infestations.
He told Pulse: ‘There was a really heavy downpour in Leicester and the roof of the health centre completely failed, I was in the building when it happened.
‘A huge amount of water suddenly poured in from multiple points all over the building to the extent that there was standing water on the ground floor.
‘All the walls were soaked, the computers went off and were damaged, we lost the phone system and plenty of paper patients’ records were also damaged.
‘We had to be immediately evacuated because it wasn’t safe and the building was then shut down by the fire brigade, and it’s been closed ever since.’
Professor Farooqi said that the practice now has 13,000 patients to look after without any premises and that he is worried patients ‘are going to come to harm’ because they are not able to get access to the care they should have at the moment.
For the first week after the flooding, the only way patients could contact the practice was through a mobile phone line because the phone system had been severely damaged.
Professor Farooqi added: ‘We now have some offices in a nearby health centre where we have set up computers, set up a phone line for us, so at least the patients can now contact us.
‘But we still haven’t got any clinical space other than the odd room here and there, there’s medical buildings around the city which we book almost on a daily basis.
‘This means that we’ve got very little face to face facility space and our staff are going around health centres, a session here, a session there.
‘The last we heard was that the building might be shut down for three months until it’s renovated and made safe to return. We are in a very difficult position.’
Professor Farooqi said that this has shown that that building is not fit for purpose, and it is an example of poor primary care premises, which are often outdated and ‘a potential hazard.’
‘I’m worried that getting new premises will take a while, and that if we move back to this building and it fails again in a few months we will be back in the same position.’
A spokesperson for NHS Property Services said: ‘Following the unprecedented levels of heavy rainfall experienced on 21 June, which led to the incident at East Leicester Medical Practice, we deployed a dedicated team to site in order to dry out, secure and fully assess the situation, in order to reinstate services as soon as possible.
‘This work continues and we are working in partnership with our customers at the practice as well as our NHS colleagues at Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland ICB, meeting regularly to support them in enacting plans to ensure patient disruption is kept to a minimum and that the practice can reopen as soon as possible.’
Last month, research by the RCGP found that four in 10 (40%) GP practice staff describe their premises as ‘unfit for purpose’.
RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said: ‘It is concerning whenever a practice is forced to close its doors, whatever the reason and no matter for how long.
‘As well as the anxiety this creates for patients, it can impact the local community and place huge pressures on other practices in the local area.
‘While it would be wrong to comment on specific practices, the unfortunate reality is that general practice infrastructure is in a woeful state.
‘We need to see a greater commitment for funding to address our crumbling infrastructure, as well as a clear vision for how we can bolster primary care structures to accommodate a growing, ageing population who are presenting with more complex conditions.’