GPs warn patient care hit by ‘unfit’ surgeries

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Many GPs are treating patients in surgeries that are unfit, doctors’ leaders claim today.

Practice buildings are in such a poor state that patient care is being “undermined”, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.

It warns many family doctors are unable to offer basic services because of the state of their practice buildings.

One GP Nighat Sultan, of the Swillington Clinic, Leeds, said: “Put simply, our premises, which are around 40 years old, are not fit for purpose.

“In windy weather we’ve had parts of the roof come loose and fall off, the walls are flimsy, the corridors are narrow, so narrow in fact that accessibility for patients in wheelchairs is limited - which is a disgrace.

“The consultation rooms are tiny and there’s no hot water in some of the taps. It’s not a nice work environment and it’s embarrassing to expect our 1,600 patients, the majority of whom are elderly, to be treated in these conditions.

“A few years ago we decided enough was enough and took the initiative by hiring an architect and drawing up plans for a new premises. We worked closely with Leeds City Council and the local community and came close to getting the go ahead for a new building, but at the last minute it all fell through. This has now happened more than once.

“With a new building we’d be able to offer other additional services in the community such as physiotherapy and podiatry, making it easier for patients to access the care they need in one place. But despite endless call on NHS England for improvements, and with little hope that our plans of new premises will be realised, it looks as though we’re stuck with a building that frankly isn’t fit to be a 21st century GP surgery.

“In my mind, this just isn’t acceptable. I know money is tight but it’s a case of priorities. Investment to get GPs’ premises up to scratch has to take priority for politicians, because at the end of the day patients deserve better than this.”

A poll of 4,000 GP surgeries published today found almost two in five said that their premises were not adequate for the provision of services.

Two thirds said they had been prevented from developing or refurbishing their premises because of a lack of cash.

Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said: “GP practice buildings in large parts of England are in such a poor state they are beginning to seriously undermine patient care.

“Far too many practices have seen no real investment in their buildings in the past 10 years, leaving them in cramped, unsuitable conditions that are hindering the ability of many to even offer basic general practice services. Practices also reported being prevented from relocating to more suitable premises because of a lack of resources.

“This puts a serious question mark over the Government’s plans to move more care into the community as many GP facilities will not be able to sustain this extra workload. With the drive from ministers to move services into the community and out of hospitals, it is particularly worrying that seven out of 10 GP practices are being held back from offering additional or enhanced services.”