Councils demand transformation of London's ageing GP surgeries

Council leaders in London are calling for a transformation of the capital’s 'ageing GP surgeries' to make them 'fit for the 21st century' - and want a key role driving improvements alongside the NHS.

GP practice (Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)
GP practice (Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)

Leaders from all 32 London boroughs have raised concern at the state of the capital's GP practices in a report warning premises are 'no longer suitable for meeting health and care needs’.

The analysis says it is becoming increasingly difficulty for GPs to find affordable premises in London and that many premises adapted for general pratice purposes 'allow for little flexibility’.

The warning from London councils follows a London Health Commission report in 2014, which found that 'a staggering three quarters of London’s GP practices are in need of rebuild or repair'.

NHS England announced last year plans to reduce practices' premises liabilities, following a major review of GP premises. Councillors have called for a 'more collaborative approach’ and argue they could help ‘speed up the delivery of new buildings [and] ensure efficiency’.

GP premises

London councils’ executive member for health and care councillor Ray Puddifoot, said: ‘Londoners deserve GP surgeries fit for the 21st century, but many primary care premises are in deteriorating condition and simply aren’t suitable for modern health care.

‘Boroughs want to work with NHS colleagues to deliver a new generation of primary care premises. We know that some areas of the capital are poorly served by the current distribution of services, leaving too many Londoners struggling to access a local GP. 

‘The health service shouldn’t take investment decisions in isolation – local government needs to be at the table, contributing our knowledge and resources to the future development of primary care provision for our communities. Together we can ensure London gets the health and care infrastructure it needs.’

The analysis suggests measures which could help facilitate a more collaborative approach towards improving London's premises, including:

  • increased devolution and simplification of NHS capital funding so that boroughs can participate in decision-making and help accelerate improvements to local primary care premises;
  • health partners to provide comprehensive, up-to-date maps of GP surgeries and primary care across local areas so that boroughs can make better use of their planning powers to support new primary care infrastructure;
  • a strengthened role for local authority Health and Wellbeing Boards in primary care estate issues, with health partners working with boards as a matter of routine.

Lack of space

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'GPs have been telling us for years that their premises are not good enough, and with our population steadily growing, there simply isn't enough room to cope with the extra demand.

'Without improved premises, GPs can’t offer the care they want to, with patients having to wait longer before a consultation room is free, or even getting referred to a different service altogether because of a lack of resources and space at their local surgery.

'GPs who lease their buildings from the NHS face their own set of problems too, with increasingly high service charges and management fees often not met with adequate maintenance.

'The expertise of NHS staff is useless if we don’t have anywhere to see our patients, which is why the government must urgently invest in practice premises - as well as wider NHS infrastructure – to ensure our health service is one fit for the 21st century.

'This is especially important when we consider the plans to significantly increase the primary care workforce over the next four years.'

Last February, the BMA called on the government to 'urgently invest' in general practice premises after a survey revealed that half of GP surgeries in England were not fit for purpose. It found a lack of space - both in terms of consulting rooms and waiting areas - and disabled access were common issues for surgeries.

Despite promising to limit the financial risk associated with premises, the government has been criticised for failing to deliver a long-term capital spending plan to address the £6bn maintenance backlog or investment in GP practice premises.

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