Soaring London premises costs threaten ideal of local, accessible GP practices

Affordable access to premises in London needs to be made available urgently as GPs struggle to find suitable and affordable premises within their local area, Londonwide LMCs has warned.

Dr Michelle Drage: warning over London GP premises (Photo: Londonwide LMCs)
Dr Michelle Drage: warning over London GP premises (Photo: Londonwide LMCs)

GP premises ‘must be kept approachable and local’ but soaring costs and reduced availability of suitable properties in London are causing dire problems, it warned.

In evidence submitted as part of an on-going health select committee enquiry into primary care, Londonwide LMCs warned that a cocktail of outdated premises, current and looming workforce shortages, the phasing out of NHS subsidies and the often complex health needs of Londoners was piling more and more pressure onto primary care.

It is vital for both patients and GPs that arrangements are made ‘as a matter of urgency’ to resolve premises problems, it added.

Commissioners and local authorities must work to facilitate the development of suitable, affordable local premises, and release funding ‘to deal with urgent upgrades and repairs’ to existing premises.

The LMC also pointed to Lord Ara Darzi’s 2014 Better Health for London report, and said it ‘looked forward’ to hearing progress on the recommendation for the NHS to establish an unused NHS buildings programme in London to help alleviate premises shortages.

GP premises threat

The report showed that the NHS is one of the largest owners of land and buildings in London. The unused buildings programme would encourage trusts to ‘transfer assets for redevelopment and disposal’.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Tuesday that £750m of the £1bn infrastructure fund - intended to help overhaul GP premises - had yet to be invested into general practice. Over 1,000 GP practices have been awarded funding through the scheme.

The LMCs’ evidence also urged improvements on access, morale, workforce, care of vulnerable groups and unsustainable demand.

Londonwide LMCs CEO Dr Michelle Drage said: 'Despite GPs’ efforts to meet rising demand for appointments, general practice in London is beset by blockages in flow; diverting staff from consulting, co-ordinating or planning care and both reducing access to patients and demotivating professionals.

‘The reckless and shortsighted reduction in support services in the community such as health visitors, mental health services and social services leads to overwhelmed GPs, and to the telltale signs of illness getting missed.

‘That leads to GPs having more consultations, less time with patients, and patients waiting longer for appointments. Everybody gets a worse deal. Too many GPs and practice nurses in London are running on empty trying to manage these rises in demand.’

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