Comment: What the rise of ‘super centres’ could mean for NHS primary care developments

In this insight, Andrew Darke, managing director of property at Assura, explains how the rise of ‘super centres’ is crucial to protecting and enhancing primary care services across the UK

Andrew Darke

Andrew Darke, managing director of property at Assura, explains how primary care practices need to come together to enhance services for patients.

The Latest Developments in Primary Healthcare Property conference in London recently brought the problem of non-compliant primary care facilities firmly into the spotlight, reinforcing the importance of having ‘updated, compliant premises for expanded community-based primary medical services’.

The shift to larger, energy-efficient health and social care hubs can undoubtedly reap rewards for patients and staff across the UK

The comments, made by conference chairman, Paul Stacey, draw attention not only to the rapid deterioration of primary care premises, but also to the common predicament faced by single-handed GPs in maintaining their practices.

This public support of those struggling to support a multitude of different patient requirements is both timely and necessary, particularly given the plans laid out in October’s announcement of 5 Year Forward View funding.

The conference’s decision to back ‘super-centres’ as a replacement for converted homes and old listed buildings demonstrates, not only a modern vision of fit-for-purpose care premises, but a forward-thinking approach for primary care clinicians and staff.

The decision to back ‘super-centres’ as a replacement for converted homes and old listed buildings demonstrates, not only a modern vision of fit-for-purpose care premises, but a forward-thinking approach for primary care clinicians and staff

Assura has been working closely with a number of GPs and CCGs nationwide to ascertain how the outcomes of the 5 Year Forward View could revitalise and produce a solution for practice premises.

My hope is that healthcare legislators are listening to, and taking note of, the plans for multi-purpose practices detailed in the conference attendees’ comments.

In the aftermath of a long-term freeze on primary care funding, there is a great deal to be done and we need to provide the right space that is needed by GPs for the future growth of their patient bases.

The vision is for functioning, mixed-use, high-quality premises that prioritise the correct care over all services. By creating premises for the appropriate services, the requirement for excessive A&E visits or walk-in centres is much reduced, or even removed, saving huge amounts of NHS expenditure and providing a reliable and sustainable base for patients and staff alike..

These new models, which include further integration of health and social care and the development of community hospitals, are addressed in the 5 Year Forward View .

There needs to be support for those that are struggling with capacity and information about merging or co-locating to improve collaborative services

What we now need is a coherent set of guidelines and information made available to GPs and legislators about what is required of them, how they can apply for improvements, and what measures need to be taken. There needs to be support for those that are struggling with capacity and information about merging or co-locating to improve collaborative services with social and third-sector providers and commissioners.

What makes the comments made at the conference so important for the future of primary care funding is that they acknowledge the need for integrated care, but also potentially-merged practices.

GPs are often housed in or have the wrong infrastructure for the new models of care being demanded of them, and it is true that if we really want the new models to be successful and sustainable, then we need to make sure every aspect of care delivery is examined and understood.

Whether you are a GP based in a leafy suburb, or an inner city practice, the chances are you have felt the strain of frozen funding and multiplying patient contacts. With 543 surgeries at risk of closure due to GPs retiring, and a BMA survey revealing that 40% of GPs admit their practices are not adequate for patient care, this is a widespread problem that will require constant review and attention.

The shift to larger, energy-efficient health and social care hubs that can accommodate services from pharmacies to counselling to dentistry to childcare, alongside core GP services, can undoubtedly reap rewards for patients and staff across the UK. I look forward to the realisation and implementation of this vision.

The private sector is ready and willing to invest the necessary capital to deliver the vision by providing the appropriate, fit-for-purpose, future-proofed infrastructure.

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