Demand for GP services has risen exponentially over the past two years, driven not only by the pandemic but also by an increasing – and increasingly ageing – population which, it is predicted, will result in one in four people being aged 65 or older by 2050.
Yet, according to our property experts, neither the GP workforce nor its property infrastructure is growing fast enough to meet this rising demand, creating the perfect property storm.
With just 35,273 registered GPs in 2020 and patient numbers per practice 22% higher than in 2015, the demands placed on GPs and their ageing premises have never been higher, resulting not only in GP exhaustion and fatigue, but many leaving the profession and surgeries closing their doors.
Indeed, a recent survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) (April 2021),revealed that BMA members (60%) have been experiencing ‘higher than normal’ levels of exhaustion or fatigue.
Not only this, in 2020 alone, 546 older, more experienced GP partners left the profession altogether, with around 100 GP surgeries shutting their doors. Since NHS England became operational in April 2013, one in six GP practices have either closed or merged to create larger medical practices, according to GPonline.
Many of the surgeries that remain, are either operating in obsolete purpose-built buildings or unsuitable converted premises which, eight out of ten GPs state, lack space and are not fit to meet future needs.
This is particularly true, considering how delivery of NHS healthcare has evolved over the past two years, as Dr Dan Bunstone (pictured below), Chief Medical Officer at PushDoctor, the UK’s first platform to offer video consultations online and via smartphone, explains:
“The pandemic has shown us how digital technology can help, working alongside face-to-face care to make systems more sustainable, efficient and joined-up, with clear benefits for clinicians and patients alike. However, whilst innovations are being made in the delivery of GP services, the infrastructure to support this, including the buildings from which many GP surgeries operate, isn’t coming quickly enough.”