GP surgeries 'bursting', says BMAMost practices insufficient to meet future demand

18 May 2006

Three-quarters of GP practices are so packed they are 'bursting at the seams', a new survey warns.

The numbers at one surgery were so high that doctors had to use the staff room to give vaccinations.

The British Medical Association's GPs Committee (GPC), which commissioned the survey of 251 practices in the UK, found that 73 per cent felt their surgeries wouldn't be big enough in the future.

'Not enough rooms'

Two-thirds of practices said their clinical staff 'hot desked' and nearly as many said rooms weren't suitable for their needs.

One practice reported: 'There are days when there are not enough rooms to allow all the doctors to consult. The extra doctor sits in the kitchen/typing room and works through mail.'

A quarter of the surgeries questioned felt their premises posed risks to the health and safety of their staff and patients and some said the cramped conditions meant confidentiality had been an issue.

If you've had a problem with your GP surgery, you can make a complaint

'Bursting at the seams'

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the GPC, said: 'Despite all the fine talk by ministers of money for new buildings, the fact remains that general practice is bursting at the seams.

'The GPC survey results paint a picture of surgeries where every conceivable space has been converted for clinical use, with consulting rooms in former storage areas and doctors doing their paperwork in the kitchen.'

Dr Meldrum said most family practices would provide more services and take on extra GPs, nurses and other health professionals if they could extend or improve their premises.

'Too little money, too late'

He added: 'If the government is serious in its intentions to transfer healthcare out of hospitals and into the community it has to recognise that we need somewhere to treat these patients.

'General practice premises are very clearly overstretched. The money for premises has been too little, too late, and with too many strings attached.'

However, Health Minister Lord Warner has hit back at the BMA criticisms and the survey findings:

'The BMA sample is small. They surveyed only 251 out of around 9,000 practices in England. We don't believe patients should be satisfied with the 'Changing Rooms' style makeover of GP premises the BMA is shamelessly lobbying for.

'If the BMA had its way, it would preserve a legacy of premises unfit for the future, while our plans to offer more NHS services outside hospitals in health centres and community hospitals would be blocked.'

Lord Warner added that the NHS was witnessing a GBP 1 billion investment in GP surgeries and health centres and that around 3,000 GP surgeries had recently been refurbished.