News & Media

The place for primary care


There’s one word which kept being repeated by our panellists during our Conservative Party Conference fringe event in Manchester.

We brought together experts from the worlds of health and property to talk about the primary care estate of the future and it was fascinating to hear them all talking about the need for better GP premises in the context of place.

Whether it was the British Property Federation’s Chief Executive Melanie Leech on how healthcare sits within the real estate ecosystem: “There is a bridge from healthcare property to many of our members because investors are interested in places: how you build communities with all of the services and infrastructure they need,”; Dr George Ogden from the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and Bolton GP Federation on what the GP surgery of the future will look like: “It won’t be a surgery. It’ll be a place where you access the things you need to keep you well…The estate will need to serve that and it will be all about partnership both for the estate and for delivery of the care,”; or our CEO, Jonathan Murphy, looking into his crystal ball: “It’ll be a place where all sorts of things contribute to keeping people healthy. One of our GP buildings already has a kitchen incorporated in the design, where they run cooking classes. That may seem a funny thing to put into a GP surgery space, but it’s in an area with high prevalence of diabetes – so it’s a way that their infrastructure is helping them address the specific health needs of their patient list. We have another building which co-locates with leisure facilities, a gym and pool; again, putting those services together just makes sense. We even have a building which includes a community hall so it can run activities – helping to prevent social exclusion for older people, which in turn impacts upon health for a significant patient group.”

In a year when there’s been much government talk of the pressures on GP surgery buildings and the need to give primary care teams more space, better layout and the infrastructure they’re going to need to really embrace technology for healthcare, it’s a refreshing way to think about this issue.

Because primary care buildings aren’t simply ‘facilities’ for when we’re poorly. They shouldn’t be a bolt-on to a new housing development or regeneration scheme just to tick a box (although ensuring that the right infrastructure is being built in to new community master-planning is crucial).

The vision our panellists sketched for us is of primary care infrastructure which helps us stay healthy: places where we can get information and treatment if we need it, but also exercise, relax and eat well. They will be as much a part of the broader national agenda of creating healthier places to live and work as affordable homes, access to public transport, walking and cycling routes and safe places to play.

claire rick 2
Claire Rick, Head of Public Affairs

Read the Storify of the event: