housands of London’s family doctor surgeries were branded “unfit for purpose” on Friday as a survey revealed nearly four in 10 are in converted residential buildings.
Londoners are more likely than patients in any other region to be in old buildings associated with cramped consulting rooms, poor parking and narrow staircases, often unfriendly to buggies and wheelchairs.
Research using Freedom of Information data from clinical commissioning groups revealed that other regions were almost twice as likely to have surgeries in modern, purpose built premises.
Former Health Minister Norman Lamb said: “There is a worryingly high proportion of GP services being run out of old residential buildings. GPs need modern, flexible premises, not decades old buildings that are simply unfit for purpose.”
An independent review in 2017 by Sir Robert Naylor criticised underinvestment and obsolescence in the primary healthcare estate.
And a survey of 1,000 family doctors by the British Medical Association in 2018 found only half of practices considered their premises to be fit for their needs, with wish-lists including more space in consulting rooms, better access for disabled patients, and airier reception areas.
Harry Hyman, chief executive of Primary Health Properties which carried out the new research, said: “This data backs up what we already knew anecdotally – an overwhelming amount of primary care provision in the country is being run out of unsuitable buildings.
“Despite the best efforts of GPs, primary care run out of former residential buildings often results in poor access for the disabled, insufficient space, bad ventilation and poor patient facilities.”
In Redbridge and Havering – a catchment area of more than 600,000 people – six in 10 surgery sites were ex-houses. The North Central London care commissioning group (CCG), which covers Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington, serving 1.5 million patients had 94 of 214 sites in former residential properties.
A group of senior medical leaders is campaigning for more Government investment in purpose build medical centres. Mr Hyman said they would cost “the price of a packet of Lemsip per patient”.
Last year 14 senior figures including Dame Clare Gerada, former chair of Royal College of General Practitioners, former health minister Paul Burstow, and former Business Secretary Vince Cable, asked the Government to commit of up to £300 million to kickstart a £5 billion rebuilding programme.