Nearly three quarters (72.8%) of practice staff who responded to a Pulse PCN survey do not have the space to house their additional roles (ARRS) staff, including pharmacists working in general practices and primary care networks (PCNs).

The poll of nearly 200 GPs including PCN clinical directors showed that around half (46.2%) strongly agreed and 26.5% agreed that estates were an immediate issue for their practice.

One pharmacist working in a PCN – who wanted to be kept anonymous – told The Pharmacist they thought the lack of consultation space in their workplaces was preventing them from being able to do more clinical work.

Pharmacists in the practice share an office, they said, but clinic rooms to see patients were only available around once every four to six weeks.

And if another colleague needed to use the consultation room they would have to work from home instead.

Working from home relied on pharmacists having a suitable and confidential space at home in order to make calls to clients, they said.

And home working lacked the quick and easy contact with GPs that benefitted patients when the surgery team was together in the practice, they added.

Their PCN is looking for more suitable premises with office space and clinic rooms, but was struggling to find something in the right locality and price, they said.

The results of the Pulse PCN survey come as health secretary Steve Barclay is expected to publish a ‘primary care recovery plan’ in the coming weeks that would reportedly include investment in estates.

One respondent to the survey told Pulse PCN that GP estates are currently ‘totally inadequate’, suggesting that funding from the Network DES should be streamed through the core GP contract, leaving GPs able to spend it at their discretion – including on premises.

Others said that the lack of space on site to base their ARRS staff – which can include pharmacists or social prescribers – prevented them from making the most of the additional roles.

According to the latest figures published by NHS Digital, as many as 3,880 full-time equivalent pharmacists were working in primary care networks as of December 2022, up from 3,127 in March 2022.

The total cost of running the NHS estate between April 2021 and March 2022 stood at £11.1 billion, according to NHS Digital, with the total cost to eradicate the backlog reaching £10.2 billion.

And around 5,348 clinical service incidents were caused by estates or infrastructure failure in 2021/22.

In a 2022 report, the NHS Confederation warned that the Government must provide quicker access to capital funding if integrated care systems (ICSs) are to successfully tackle health inequalities, as per their brief.

In Pulse PCN’s spring issue, Dr Richard Vautrey, former chair of the BMA GP Committee, said that investment in GP premises was needed to fully support and utilise the PCN workforce hired via ARRS.

The survey was conducted from 12 February to 5 March.

Parts of this article first appeared on our sister publication Pulse PCN.