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A lack of proper primary healthcare facilities in many parts of the country is blamed for people ending up in hospital with major costs for the taxpayer. Advocates of modern medical centres say that if doctors and nurses were moved into suitable facilities this would save NHS England £39million a year.
They say the cost to go to A&E is £180 per visit compared with £39 for a GP appointment.
Research by King’s College London identified reductions in A&E admissions in deprived communities after medical centres were built or refurbished.
A previous analysis found that one in four GP practices in England are based in “old houses” that are not fit for purpose.
Harry Hyman, chief executive of Primary Health Properties, which commissioned the research from Kings College London and has a portfolio of more than 500 GP centres in the UK and Ireland, said: “These findings show the importance of GPs in reducing the acute pressure on our hospitals, particularly as they look to reduce waiting lists in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
“Poorer communities particularly benefit from improved primary health facilities, which is why investment is so important for the Government’s levelling up agenda.
“The Government must work with developers to help them invest more in modern medical centres. If ministers do not, expensive A&E visits will only increase, heaping further pressure on the NHS and levelling down our most deprived communities.”
PHP wants the Government to ring-fence between £250million and £300million for additional rental payments for GP premises.
It claims this guaranteed revenue stream would allow developers to “borrow up to £5billion to invest in rebuilding or refurbishing around 750 medical centres”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that funding for GP services matches the communities they serve, so the best care can be delivered to patients.
“Decisions around the prioritisation of funding for health facilities are largely devolved to local areas or individual practices.
“NHS England is currently undertaking a survey of primary care estates to get a better understanding of them with the aim of providing this information to local commissioners, in order to inform their estates planning and strategies. This is expected to be complete by March 2023.”
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