Editorial: DH must make GP premises a priority

In your latest fortnightly GP, we reveal the results of our exclusive GP poll on premises.

It finds that more than a third of GP practices across the UK have been unable to take on new services because their premises are inadequate.

The figures are alarming, with more than half of the practices saying their premises need improvement.

The results raise huge doubts about DH plans to shift work out of hospitals and into primary care, both to save money and to treat patients nearer to their homes.

Only last month, Londonwide LMCs responded to a report by the King's Fund entitled General Practice in London: Supporting improvements in quality, arguing that GPs needed, among other things, 'essential improvements to existing premises'.

The problem is compounded by the legal requirement in England for practices to be CQC-registered by 1 April 2013. A startling 27% of practices in our survey did not believe their premises would comply with CQC requirements.

The good news is that there seems to be some recognition by the DH of the problem. In our exclusive interview on page 17, GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman says ministers are 'showing considerable willingness' to solve the problem of GPs being unable to borrow money to invest in premises.

A further complication is the replacement of PCTs in England with CCGs in April 2013. One property expert has told us that if property plans are not signed off before the demise of PCTs, nothing will improve for two years.

It seems ludicrous that the success of one element of the NHS reforms, the funded shift of work from hospitals to primary care, could be jeopardised by the reorganisation component that sees CCGs take on responsibilities from PCTs. Could there be a worse example of the failure of joined-up government?

Dear DH, a proportion of the GP workforce needs help with premises improvements to enable the NHS reforms to be a success. Ignore their pleas for help at your peril.

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