COMMERCIAL: A primary care trust has rejected a bid by Sainsbury’s to open a GP surgery in one of its supermarkets due to extensive concerns over hygiene and privacy.

An audit by NHS North Lincolnshire raised concerns about the proposed consulting room being too small, potential infection problems and patients being overheard by shoppers.

In November Sainsbury’s announced it wanted GPs to open branches in rooms inside its stores for free and suggested around 200 could host them. One has since opened in Colne, Lancashire, and the company has hosted “roadshows” for practices around the country. A surgery has operated in a Sainsbury’s in Manchester for several years.

But NHS North Lincolnshire’s board last week decided to reject an application by Dr Kennedy and Partners practice to open in a store in Scunthorpe.

An infection control audit report carried out in April said the ceiling of the room “does not prevent extraneous noise and during the visit noises associated with the store were clearly heard within the room, as were discussions with customers collecting prescriptions and buying over-the-counter medication”.

It says: “Consultations with GPs and clinical personnel would require a degree of privacy and dignity – there is a possibility that a consultation could be overheard by a customer standing near the room.”

Another concern was cracks in the floor, and walls and door “made of partition board” preventing “adequate cleaning/decontamination”. The sink in the room did not meet guidance and the room was smaller than is recommended. The review says there was a “lack of floor space and limited space around the examination couch”.

There was no vaccine fridge in the room, although the surgery may be able to use a fridge in the pharmacy. There were no toilets separate from those used by shoppers.

Last year Royal College of GPs chair Clare Gerada criticised the Sainsbury’s plan, saying: “Dealing with the sick and vulnerable needs more than a conveyer belt, quick fix approach to healthcare delivery.”

A spokeswoman for the supermarket told HSJ it was still working with the practice and may bring new proposals to the PCT. She said surgeries were expected to open in six other stores during the summer.

The practice declined to comment.