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The state of general practice surgeries across England has been laid bare in a report by the Royal College of General Practitioners, which warned many buildings were “unsafe” with staff working out of cupboards and corridors.
Forty per cent of surgery employees said their premises were “not fit for purpose”, in a survey of GP staff by the sector body. It found that working conditions were making it hard for practices to deliver a “basic level of care” to patients.
“Our members have told us of leaky roofs and draughty windows. These are conditions which you would not associate with 21st-century healthcare, but they’re the reality for a substantial number of practices in the UK,” said Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Royal College of GPs chair.
The condition of GP surgeries is indicative of a wider crisis in general practice that is struggling under the weight of overwhelming demand from a growing and ageing population.
The poll, shared with the Financial Times, found that 88 per cent of GP staff reported an “insufficient” number of available consulting rooms. More than 30 per cent said the space available for patients was “inadequate”.
Staff also reported water leakage, mould or mildew as well as working out of “cupboards, corridors, and loft space”. The report found that unfit digital infrastructure was hampering patient care in some areas.
Despite the Conservative government pledge in 2019 to create 6,000 more GPs during this parliament in order to strengthen out-of-hospital care, there are fewer fully trained GPs than four years ago.
The RCGP called on the government to deliver “significant and urgent investment” ahead of the Autumn Statement on Wednesday, including £2bn worth of funding for infrastructure.
The RCGP survey of 2,649 GP staff found concerns raised over the condition of equipment and buildings, including leaks and missing doors, as well as access for patients with disabilities. The poll surveyed all general practice staff and GPs made up the majority of respondents.
“General practice infrastructure — the surgeries in which we care for our patients — is simply not up to scratch,” said Hawthorne. “Many GPs are dealing with inadequate buildings which in some instances, frankly, are unsafe.”
Sarah Powell, head of patient services at a GP practice in Yorkshire, said: “Our main site is a converted house which the practice acquired in the ’60s and is now seeing a litany of structural issues.
“The size of some of our consultation rooms is also a real issue, they’re small and cramped with damp walls, they make for challenging working conditions when treating patients.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We want GPs to deliver the best quality of care to patients and will continue our work to assess what is needed to enable them to deliver services effectively in general practice premises.”
It added that healthcare systems received an annual capital allocation — a share of more than £4bn annually — to maintain the NHS estate and address safety issues.