Only half of GP practice buildings in England are fit for purpose, with surgeries too small to meet the demands of growing populations, a survey from the British Medical Association (BMA) has found.
The survey of more than 1,000 practices in England asked staff about their experiences with property ownership and management. One of the main findings is that eight out of ten GPs said their premises are not fit to meet anticipated future needs.
Other key findings include only half of practices said their premises were suitable for present needs, and around eight in ten practices said their practices were not suitable for future needs or anticipated population growth.
‘GPs have been telling us for years that their practice buildings are not up to scratch, and now we have evidence showing just how serious the situation is,’ said Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair. ‘Despite their best efforts, GPs and their teams are ultimately limited by space, and cannot meet the growing needs of their patients without an urgent increase in capacity. What is most worrying is how few practices feel their buildings are prepared for the future, with just two in 10 saying they are fit to meet anticipated future demand.’
GP premises are on average 35-years-old, having been first built or converted in 1984.
Eight in 10 practices are in purpose-built premises. The last significant modification or extension to premises took place in the mid-2000s on average, pre-dating many of the increases in patient demand and population growth witnessed over the last decade.
When asked what would make premises more suitable for present needs, most practices noted that more space is needed, including by extending the premises, more consulting rooms to manage a growing patient list, improving access including for disabled patients, and expanded and improved patient waiting and reception areas.
‘Without more space and the ability to add rooms and facilities easily, patients will continue to face long waits for appointments, as GPs and their wider practice staff can only work with what they have,’ added Dr Vautrey. ‘The BMA recently came to a significant agreement with NHS England as part of contract negotiations to expand the primary care workforce – with groups of practices employing pharmacists, physiotherapists and other professionals – but for patients to benefit from this expanded team, they too will require space to work.’