£1billion fund to improve GP estate 'just a sticking plaster'

Government cash will not pay for improvements needed to primary care buildings, conference hears

There are fears the new government funding will not be enough to bring some primary care facilities up to the required standard

The announcement of a £1billion investment in the primary care estate has been described as merely ‘a sticking plaster’ by industry experts.

Speaking at the Latest Developments in Primary Healthcare Property conference in London last week, speakers revealed the Government’s new Primary Care Infrastructure Fund equated to just £12,000-£13,000 per GP practice.

This is not nearly enough to fund the improvements needed to bring the primary care estate up to scratch, they claimed.

The fund will be open for bids by GPs every year for the next four years and will be made available to practices that can demonstrate that improvements in their existing buildings will result in increased access to appointments for patients, expanded services, better use of technology and/or a reduction in emergency attendance or admission to hospital among the over-75s.

This money really equates to a small amount per practice and won’t be very exciting. It’s just a sticking plaster for primary care

£250m will be up for grabs each year, with the fund paying for improvements to existing surgeries and investment in new premises.

But Adam Thompson, director of Primary Care Surveyors, told last week’s conference: “This money really equates to a small amount per practice and won’t be very exciting. It’s just a sticking plaster for primary care.”

Andrew Surgenor, director of healthcare at estate agent, Savills, added: “If all the money each year went on new-build developments, that’s only 100 a year and it would take us 55 years before we replaced all the substandard stock.

“It is likely most of the money will be spent on refurbishments and improvements to existing facilities. We are having to spend a lot more money on buildings, and at some point it becomes unviable and impacts on the delivery of patient services.

“We should be concerned about these escalating repair costs because there will be even less money in the future.”

data from the Royal College of GPs reveals that 543 surgeries are at risk of closure this year due to GPs retiring. A British Medical Association survey further shows that 40% of GPs admit their practices are not adequate for patient care, and 70% say their buildings are too small. Half of practices say they have not invested in improving or refurbishing their facilities in the past 10 years, and 60% say a poor environment means they cannot provide training.

Savills' own figures also show that less than 50% of the current primary care buildings stock is purpose built and 40% will need replacing within the next five years.

This extra funding will enable practices to progress previously-submitted proposals for premises improvement and development, but only where they extend practice and offer new clinical services

Announcing the cash, Dame Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning operations at NHS England, said: “General practice is the bedrock for the NHS, but we recognise that it is increasingly under pressure across the country.

“This extra funding will enable practices to progress previously-submitted proposals for premises improvement and development, but only where they extend practice and offer new clinical services in line with ambition set out in the Five Year Forward View.

All capital proposals will need to demonstrate how they will offer more patient contact time as a result and help reduce emergency admissions by the frail and elderly.”

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