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Alan Johnson turns on PCT chiefs for opposing polyclinics

By Gareth Iacobucci

The health secretary has launched a scathing attack on PCT chiefs after an MP revealed her trust 'blamed the Government' for imposing inflexible and centrally imposed primary care plans.

Alan Johnson said North Lancashire PCT was displaying a ‘disgraceful' attitude after the trust questioned the imposition of a GP-led health centre and two new GP practices in their area.

The health secretary also admitted that 'numerous PCTs' were opposed to the Government's plans, and accused them of trying to 'duck the issue'.

The comments are the most blatant evidence yet of the Government's determination to crush opposition to it's polyclinic rollout.

Pulse last week revealed that bosses from North East Lincolnshire Care Trust were being forced to press ahead with plans even where they have protested that the move may ‘jeopardise' patient care. Two other PCTs who had planned not to procure a polyclinic have also been forced to back down.

Mr Johnson made the comments in the House of Commons after Geraldine Smith, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, told him that her local PCT blamed the Government for blocking its own plans to expand GP services.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Smith said local GPs feared that the new services would threaten existing practices, and said the PCT blamed the Government for its lack of flexibility.

She said: ‘Why is there not the flexibility to allow existing GP practices to expand to meet the need, rather than having to create a new practice, which could have the effect of destabilising existing GP services? That is a real concern to GPs in my constituency.

‘This should be done in that way only if the primary care trust wants that, but the PCT in my area blames the Government; it says it would like to do it another way, but the Government will not allow it to do so.'

But Mr Johnson angrily criticised the PCTs attitude, accusing them of trying to duck the issue by blaming the Government.

He replied: ‘My hon. Friend has raised this point with me, and a letter about the disgraceful attitude of the PCT is winging its way towards her. Although there may be numerous PCTs which are trying to duck this issue by blaming the Government, they are wrong.'

Kevin McGee, director of commissioning and performance at North Lancashire Teaching PCT, said ‘The PCT is very supportive of the national programme to improve access to primary healthcare, and the fact that this is bringing significant additional investment in to primary care within North Lancashire.

‘It is true that we are on a very tight timetable to procure these new services, but the PCT is meeting this timetable and is very excited about the new facilities that will become available in the form of a health centre and GP practices.'

Pulse last week revealed how North East Lincolnshire Care Trust had urged the DH to rethink its one-size-fits-all procurement strategy - but was overridden and ordered to complete its procurement by December.

Buckinghamshire and Herefordshire PCTs, who had indicated they might challenge the Government's plans, have now agreed to have one.

Alan Johnson: has attacked PCT bosses for opposing polyclinics rollout Alan Johnson: has attacked PCT bosses for opposing polyclinics rollout

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