Epsom’s MP has said there is "no way" a cramped GP surgery could disappear because NHS bureaucrats have not considered an application for it to move to new modern premises.
The Ashley Centre Surgery, in Ashley Square, Epsom, is facing a bleak future because its move to bigger, state-of-the-art premises in the Old Magistrates’ Court development, in The Parade, Epsom, has not been approved by NHS bureaucrats.
Surrey and Sussex Area Team, formed after the abolition of Primary Care Trusts last April, has not considered the application for a year, after it was formed to do so, because it said it is still awaiting policy guidance on the issue of GPs premises from NHS England.
But this week Chris Grayling said the NHS would have to find an alternative if the existing surgery ever faced threat of closure.
Speaking to the Epsom Guardian, he said: "Is the Ashley Centre surgery going to close and disappear? No.
"I have had some discussions already with the regional director of NHS England.
"There is not a current threat to its building although it is not ideal.
"If there ever was a situation where the building was going to be closed down by instruction from inspectors there is no question that the NHS would have to solve the problem.
"There is no way the NHS could let it disappear.
"The practice does need to move as it is quite cramped and outdated and I will do whatever I can to help them to move.
"The challenge is the cost of the move is quite expensive."
Mr Grayling said he is in the same position as MPs in many other communities who are trying to make their positions heard by the NHS.
He added: "What I can’t do is promise that I can guarantee to get the Ashley Centre surgery to the front of the queue."
When asked about Epsom councillors’ decision to remove plans for a new GP surgery which has been earmarked as part of the Hollymoor Lane redevelopment, on the Longmead Estate, for a number of years, he said the issue has not been highlighted to him but he is willing to help.
He added: "There will be pressure on existing practices and it will have to be addressed."
Mr Grayling’s comments come in the same week as a survey, published by watchdog Healthwatch Surrey, found that more than a third of patients in the county are already finding it difficult or impossible to see a GP when they want, with some queueing at surgeries from 7am for a same day appointment.
The Care Quality Commission has warned the Ashley Centre Surgery that it is too small
The survey was commissioned after concerns were recorded by Citizens’ Advice Bureau offices in Surrey.
The probe discovered that 37 per cent of the 1,000 respondents were rarely or never able to get an appointment on a day or at a time they wanted, although 34 per cent of people always or often did.
Healthwatch Surrey said the survey showed that some GP surgeries should do more to meet the needs of patients, many of whom are elderly or who work long hours, and that the survey’s results would be shared with health commissioners and GPs practices.
Mike Rich, Healthwatch chief executive, said: "It’s apparent that patients’ frustrations centre on problems accessing urgent same day appointments coupled with a widespread inability to book follow-up appointments in advance, especially with their own GP."
The survey found that some patients who could not get a non-urgent appointment for up to three weeks had "played the system" to get one by saying it was urgent or they had gone to A&E instead.
A survey conducted by the British Medical Association last month found that cramped and inadequate GP practice buildings are damaging doctors’ ability to deliver effective care and provide enough appointments to parents.
The survey, of almost 4,000 GP practices in England, found that four out of 10 GP practices feel their current facilities are not adequate to deliver services and that almost seven out of 10 GPs feel their facilities are too small to deliver additional services.
Just over half of practices have seen no investment or refurbishment in the past 10 years.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: "GP practice buildings in large parts of England are in such a poor state they are beginning to seriously undermine patient care.
"Far too many practices have seen no real investment in their buildings in the past 10 years leaving them in cramped, unsuitable conditions that are hindering the ability of many to even offer basic general practice services.
"Practices also reported being prevented from relocating to more suitable premises because of a lack of resources.
"This puts a serious question mark over the Government’s plans to move more care into the community as many GP facilities will not be able to sustain this extra workload.
"GPs have given us examples of how their admin staff are having to work in portakabins, buildings without proper disabled access and with staff struggling to provide care in cramped and inadequate consulting rooms."
In a statement, a NHS England, Surrey and Sussex, spokesman said: "We have received a business case from the Ashley Centre Surgery in Epsom to move to a new building.
"We hold contracts with 350 practices working out of 425 sites across Surrey and Sussex, and we recognise that a number of practices are facing issues with their premises.
"Many GP practice premises are not owned by the NHS, but are leased by the practices from a range of private and public sector organisations.
"Practices have responsibility for the suitability of their premises and for any lease agreements with the landlords, with NHS England funding premises costs.
"We are awaiting national guidance on how we should prioritise investment in premises across the system, and funding decisions for all practices are on hold until this guidance has been finalised."
To view the Healthwatch Surrey survey click here.
To view the British Medical Association’s survey click here.
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