‘Londoners deserve GP surgeries fit for the 21st century’ – Councils call for greater say in improving primary care premises

  • By JackGraves

London boroughs are calling for a transformation of the capital’s ageing GP and primary care premises – and want a key role in driving the improvements alongside their NHS partners.

In new analysis of primary care infrastructure in the capital, London Councils calls for a more collaborative approach through:

  • more devolution and simplification of NHS capital funding so that boroughs can participate in decision-making and help accelerate improvements to local primary care premises
  • health partners to provide comprehensive, up-to-date maps of GP surgeries and primary care across local areas so that boroughs can make better use of their planning powers to support new primary care infrastructure
  • a strengthened role for local authority Health and Wellbeing Boards in primary care estate issues, with health partners working with boards as a matter of routine.

Borough leaders are concerned by the deteriorating condition of much of the capital’s primary care infrastructure.

Research suggests 51% of London GP surgeries require some refurbishment, while 13% were poor, very poor, or terrible and should be rebuilt. A third of practices were found to be inaccessible for people in wheelchairs (source: London Health Commission – Better Health for London report).

Many London GP surgeries are located in converted residential housing or older purpose-built centres that allow for little flexibility in the way services are offered and are no longer suitable for meeting health and care needs. In many parts of the capital it is increasingly difficult to find affordable premises.

With London’s fast-growing population due to reach almost 10 million by 2031 (source: the London Plan), pressure on primary care is expected to increase even further in the coming years.

Boroughs’ democratic accountability and place-making responsibilities mean they must be key partners for primary care planning. An enhanced role for local authorities could help speed up the delivery of new buildings, ensure efficiency and improve outcomes for Londoners.

Boroughs want to build on the coordination established by the London Estates Board, where they are represented alongside NHS partners, through strengthening joint governance arrangements.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot MBE, London Councils’ Executive Member for Health & Care, said:

“Londoners deserve GP surgeries fit for the 21st century, but many primary care premises are in deteriorating condition and many simply aren’t suitable for modern health care.

“Boroughs want to work with NHS colleagues to deliver a new generation of primary care premises. We know that some areas of the capital are poorly served by the current distribution of services, leaving too many Londoners struggling to access a local GP. 

“The health service shouldn’t take investment decisions in isolation – local government needs to be at the table, contributing our knowledge and resources to the future development of primary care provision for our communities.

“Together we can ensure London gets the health and care infrastructure it needs.”

Seeking agreement on transforming primary care premises is one of London Councils’ Pledges to Londoners, which were agreed by London’s borough leaders and directly elected mayors.

This is the first time London Councils and its member boroughs have signed up to a series of shared commitments on the issues that matter most to Londoners, which they will deliver over the next three years.