The letter, signed by GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard, National Association of Primary Care chair Dr Minesh Patel and the chief executive of the Patients Association Rachel Power, warned Mr Johnson that the poor state of GP premises was a risk to patient safety.
It argued that alongside the capital investment, mostly for hospital upgrades, announced by Mr Johnson yesterday, general practice and community care premises needed urgent investment.
‘GP premises have been underfunded over a number of years leading to a decline in provision available and a situation where safe, timely patient care is being put at risk,’ the letter said. ‘This situation is compounded by an overall lack of infrastructure investment, policies of converting health capital budgets into revenue, and delays by NHS England in providing updated Premises Cost Directions.’
The letter also said that plans for an extra 20,000 staff in primary care – a key plank of the new five-year GP contract in England – could only succeed if practices had sufficient space to accommodate them.
‘Primary care estates must therefore be prioritised in the upcoming spending review,’ the letter said. ‘Such an approach will be crucial in improving patient care and contributing towards reducing GP waiting times.’
In his first speech as prime minister, Mr Johnson signalled that tackling waiting times for GP appointments will be one of his priorities.
At the time, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said this was a ‘welcome ambition’, but warned that Mr Johnson needed ‘to firstly recognise the underlying pressures behind long waits and then spell out exactly how he is going to address these.'
The letter to Mr Johnson also urged the prime minister to increase capital funding for NHS England by £3.5bn in 2019/20 to bring the country in line with the OECD average.
The next spending review had been expected to happen this autumn. Former chancellor Philip Hammond said earlier this year that he expected it to be concluded alongside the autumn budget. However, the recent change in government and uncertainty surrounding Brexit have led to speculation that it may not be possible to stick to this schedule.
NHS England recently completed a major review of GP premises. Many of its recommendations, and ultimately a long-term plan for GP premises, remain dependent on the outcome of the next spending review.