How Purpose-Built Developments Changed Primary Care Practices

8th January 2021 0

How GP Surgeries began 

When the NHS was first formed by Aneurin Bevan in 1948, many GPs started practices from the front rooms of their houses and as demand for healthcare services increased, GPs often converted their entire houses into surgeries to meet patients’ needs. Over time the demands to improve healthcare premises, specifically GP’s, has meant their existing buildings have become obsolete and new premises need to be sourced.

The GP Surgeries we see today

In recent years, the NHS has been trying to standardise primary care design with the Health & Social Care Design Guide followed by the issue of HBN11-01 and WHBN36. While these guides influence the creation of new facilities, there are still hundreds of GPs practising out of converted houses which are not fit-for-purpose.

Working from converted premises affects functionality, lack of natural light, compliance, ventilation and in more recent times sufficient space for safe circulation. The layout and general constraints of older premises have also meant that GP practices are limited in terms of clinical capacity – which is a major issue, particularly where the NHS now aims to provide more services with a GP practice setting.

Older premises can also have an adverse effect on the health and morale of staff and users of premises and can be a contributor to poor retention or recruitment of staff.

Currently, GP surgeries are not known for being particularly well-designed. Many think of the 1960s and ‘70s Health Centres with concrete cladding, flat roofs and internal poorly lit space. However, in recent years the quality of health facilities has changed significantly with award-winning Architects designing purpose-built facilities with large public spaces, atria, high ceilings and complex building systems to make them sustainable and creating a better experience for users.

2020 has shone a light on the inadequacy of the current primary care estate. Poor access, egress, light, ventilation, lack of circulation and waiting spaces have forced many surgeries to reduce their capacity and move to online consulting. This is why, at Apollo, we support the development of a new purpose-built estate for the delivery of primary care.

Advantages of a purpose-built primary care practice

Purpose-built primary care practices are a great property solution for primary care. Developments of this type are made with a particular use case in mind. Purpose-built primary care practices are, therefore, built with the sole intention of giving GP clients and Commissioners alike the opportunity to do more for their patients from a GP setting.  Furthermore, new premises help improve the working environment for clinicians and their staff, as well as positively contributing to a positive patient experience. The advantages of a purpose-built property solution for primary care are:   

  1. Compliance – All new schemes will be built to comply with HBN, HTM and WHBN36 guidance which seeks to standardise room sizes whilst providing guidance concerning design, layout and specifications for primary care facilities.
  2. Access – Older buildings often don’t fully comply with the Equalities Act and can inadvertently discriminate against certain disability groups such as sight impaired, wheelchair users, hearing impaired etc. A new building has to comply with the Equalities Act, BS8300 and Part M of the Building Regulations which make new facilities accessible for all whilst providing greater flexibility around patient user groups and staff use of buildings.
  3. Infection Control – Floor coverings, wall coverings, cleaner rooms and mechanical ventilation all contribute to reduce infection in GP premises. This in recent months has been of particular issue for GP practices offering a safe environment for patients during this pandemic. 
  4. Well-being – New premises are designed to provide light and airy spaces which are well ventilated and pleasant to be in. Wider corridors and larger waiting spaces contribute to patient and staff well-being.
  5. Feel-Good Factor – The introduction of art or community engagement can lift a new premise and make patients and staff feel better.  Use of art is a means of making a GP surgery an interesting and vibrant environment and less institutional.
  6. Capacity – A new build will allow practices to deliver primary care at scale and offers greater flexibilities around the range of services that can be offered to patients. Population growth and increase in demand are all putting pressure on the existing estate and therefore it is crucial that buildings are ‘future-proofed through capacity built into a new building, or, have the ability to easily extend/adapt in the future.
  7. Sustainability – As part of the climate change agenda, all new primary care developments will need to be delivered with sustainable building systems that are aimed at reducing energy consumption within buildings which also help reduce operational costs for GP practices.

Using purpose-built practices to support multidisciplinary teams

There has been a move over recent years to create larger hub developments where several GP practices and other health and social care providers co-locate in a much larger facility. The larger purpose-built developments support multidisciplinary teams and greater collaboration between service providers, enabling patients to access all their services in one place.

For example, our 6,000sqm scheme at the Eastwood Health & Care Centre in Glasgow means that primary care, community care, social care and other complementary providers can co-locate and provide services closer to the patient’s home.

Using a purpose-built premise to ensure practice compliance

CQC and CHC inspections will pick up on the adequacy of the building to meet the clinical needs of the patients. Practices in older buildings often suffer a poorer score which affects their overall rating. While the service they provide is often excellent the inspection will find inadequacies in the property which affect the way the practice functions.

Using purpose-built primary care practices to align with the NHS

Here at Apollo, we set a benchmark for award-winning projects by supporting practices and the NHS to transform their services and make the most of their buildings. As a leading primary care developer and consultant, we work in partnership with GP practices, NHS bodies and other service providers to make healthcare premises better. Interested in learning more about our property solutions for primary care? Contact us today.