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GP News: Premises not fit for patients, survey reveals

Last Thursday we launched the results of our premises survey. We received a tremendous response from over 4,720 practices across the UK. That's around 50 per cent of all practices - higher than any other recent survey - which highlights just how important this issue is to GPs and their staff. GP premises has been the elephant in the room for some time, having been neglected and left without any national strategy or dedicated funding for over a decade. It is clear that this is now having a significantly detrimental effect on patient care. And while there has been much talk of moving care out of hospitals and into the community, no thought has been put into where these patients will be seen and cared for instead. The survey results also show that there isn't the space to train the GPs of tomorrow, which will only exacerbate the workforce crisis. The headline findings are as follows: • Almost two-fifths of all responding practices do not consider their current premises adequate for the provision of basic general practice services • Almost seven in ten feel their premises restrict their ability to offer additional or enhanced services • Over one-third do not have sufficient space to provide GP training • Over half feel their premises restrict patient access to primary care, preventing them from offering an adequate range of appointments • Almost four in five are unable to host a full primary care team (district nurses, health visitors, midwives etc) due to lack of space • Over half have not seen any significant refurbishment or development to their premises in the past 10 years • Over three in five have been prevented from undertaking any refurbishment or development due to lack of funding • More than half either do not believe (41 per cent) or are not sure (13 per cent) that they can expand to meet current or future needs • Six out of ten practices feel unable to relocate to new premises due to funding constraints. To find out more, view the full survey and read our analysis. What these bare facts can't show is the extent to which this issue is affecting thousands of practices and patients on a daily basis. Even seemingly well-presented surgeries are dogged by a lack of consulting rooms, with GPs unable to complete essential patient administration due to hot-desking; practices unable to provide additional sessions or accommodate key primary care staff due to lack of space; and patients with mobility problems forced to negotiate cramped staircases and so forth. These issues affect all who work in GP surgeries - from partners, salaried GPs, locums, trainees and nurses to our receptionists and managers. Nearly one in two practices state that their premises could be suitably adapted or extended to provide greater capacity for their patients' needs. This cost-effective investment by government would improve the experience of hundreds of thousands of patients daily. I am thankful to the more than 1,600 practices that have offered to share their experiences to demonstrate the scale of this problem. This will greatly assist us in demanding that the government reverse this chronic neglect of GP premises. Earl Howe speaks at survey launch The BMA GPs committee hosted a special event last week to mark the launch of the survey, bringing together all the lead players in GP premises development. This included health minister Earl Howe, who gave a keynote speech, as well as financiers, lawyers and representatives from the Department of Health and NHS property services, who gave their collective support to address this much-overlooked priority. We are now calling on government to set up a task and finish group to establish a coherent national strategy that will enable the funding and development of GP premises, not only to address current needs, but also to accommodate the future movement of care into community settings. This isn't just for our benefit; it's an issue of fairness to patients - and a key plank of the Your GP cares campaign - that you, their GPs, have the space to care for them. Both the survey and event received good media coverage in the Daily Mirror, Independent and Times, and I was interviewed for Good Morning Britain and LBC radio. Meanwhile, the story played very strongly regionally as well, featuring in the Northern Echo, Yorkshire Post, Western Daily Press, the Express & Star, and on a host of BBC regional TV and radio stations. Tribute to Dr Ian Bogle It was with great sadness that I learnt Dr Ian Bogle, past chairman of GPC (1990-1997) and chairman of BMA council (1998-2003), had passed away last month. Ian was a magnificent chair of GPC (then called the general medical services committee) when I was first elected to it back in 1996. He was an inspiration, always responding to challenges and looking forwards. Ian presided expertly over a difficult period following the 1990 contract changes and GP fundholding debacle, and was instrumental in developing the concept of a practice-based contract. His immense contribution to UK general practice will be remembered by all who knew him. Dr Chaand Nagpaul Chair, BMA GPs committee

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