Hundreds of GP’s surgeries ‘are too cramped and not fit for purpose’
Some found to have inadequate heating and insufficient easy-access facilities for elderly or disabled patientsKings Fund report said 'major' improvements were needed to cope with higher patient numbers



07:56 GMT, 6 December 2012

Hundreds of doctors’ surgeries are too cramped and ‘not fit for purpose’, a report warns.

Rooms in some are so close together that patients worry that confidential discussions can be overheard in the waiting area.

Other surgeries have poor heating systems and have not bothered to install ramps or wide doors to enable easy-access for the elderly or disabled.

'Cramped': Patients in some surgeries feared their confidential discussions with their doctor could be overheard in the waiting area

'Cramped': Patients in some surgeries feared their confidential discussions with their doctor could be overheard in the waiting area

A report by the Kings Fund also warned that there may be shortages of GPs in future with a high number approaching retirement age.

Up to one in ten family doctors in England are over 60, although in some parts of the country it is up to a quarter.

The report – which specifically looked at GP practices in London – said ‘major’ improvements were needed to cope with the higher numbers of patients.

In particular it said surgeries needed to stay open for longer and ensure patients knew who to contact out-of-hours.

It also advised surgeries to employ higher numbers of staff such as practice nurses and health visitors to reduce the work-load for family doctors.

Anna Dixon, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said: ‘While there are some excellent general practices in London, the quality of care that Londoners receive is not as consistently good as it could be.

‘There is huge potential to make better use of information and data to understand and address variations in performance.

‘I hope this report will encourage GPs to engage in a discussion about how to lead a transformation in general practice to ensure all Londoners enjoy the best possible health care.’

Warning: The Kings Fund report predicted possible shortages of GPs in the future, with high numbers reaching retirement age

Warning: The Kings Fund report focused on London, but there is evidence of surgeries across the country in an equally poor state

Dr Tom Coffey, Assistant Medical Director at NHS London and a GP, said:
‘The King’s Fund report recognises the excellent service offered by GPs across the capital but calls upon us to consider the transformation of primary health care in London, taking into account the changing population and varied, increasing demands.’

The study also found that a third of patients in some parts of England were unhappy about being overheard in the waiting room while they were being seen by their GP.

On average 27 per cent of patients in London said they were worried about this lack of privacy but in Bromley, South London, it was as high as 34 per cent.

The report said that surgeries which were too small or ‘not fit for purpose’ would not be able to provide good care.

Although the study mainly focused in London, there is evidence that surgeries across England are in an equally poor state.

An investigation by Pulse magazine in 2010 found that the as many as one in seven practice buildings were ‘substandard.’

And one Primary Care trust, Hammersmith and Fulham in West London, said nine of its surgeries were in such a poor state they needed to be totally rebuilt.

Many trusts had cancelled refurbishments or even the installation of new central heating systems in a bid to save money.

Surgeons will be ranked in a national league table in a bid to root-out incompetence.

The head of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh, wants to publish figures on individual surgeons’ performance.

The data is likely to include success rates for operations and as well as mortality rates.

Last month breast surgeon Ian Paterson was suspended after it emerged he had botched up to 1,000 operations.

He was also accused of operating on 450 women who were perfectly healthy at a number of hospitals across the Midlands.