Friday, September 15, 2006


One in seven GP surgeries is "not fit for purpose", a survey has suggested. The problem is getting worse and putting key policies such as moving care into the community in jeopardy, the GP magazine, Pulse, said. Some 1,092 premises out of more than 7,000 across the UK were below minimum standards, its survey found.

The government said premises were getting better as 1 billion pounds was being invested in upgrading GP surgeries and health centres. Three out of five of the 175 primary care organisations which oversee GP practices said at least one of their GP premises was inadequate.

London was by far the worst affected area in the UK, with 522 premises deemed unfit by the capital's 31 primary care trusts. In some areas, such as Bromley, Lewisham and Havering, almost all premises were not fit for purpose. In England, Birmingham, Bristol and Bradford were also badly affected and in Scotland, Grampian and Ayrshire and Arran were the worst hit.

The results are nearly double official figures which show 600 premises are unfit. Pulse said if its figures were extrapolated to all primary care organisations in the UK, the real total would be nearer 1,500 of 10,300 GP premises. The magazine said doctors had said they could raise the capital required to build new premises, but NHS bodies could not afford the rent on them.

Jo Haynes, editor of Pulse, said: "GPs want to take on more work from hospitals and to provide more services for patients from their surgeries. "But they are being prevented from doing so because the government refuses to invest the comparatively small amount of money to enable primary care organisations to fund new premises."

Dr Peter Holden, of the British Medical Association's GPs' committee, said the results were further evidence that the Department of Health was "spending peanuts on premises". "This means GPs cannot take on the broader role that is possible in primary care, delivering services at a fraction of the cost of secondary care. "It's complete short-termism, as usual."

Health Minister Lord Warner said premises were getting better as 1 billion pounds was being invested in GP surgeries and health centres under the Lift programme, a public-private partnership. He also said the government was helping the NHS open 125 new health centres - a rate of expansion that "rivals Tesco". He added: "We will go on investing in better premises for primary care and community services, but in ways that benefit patients."


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