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And the winner is... NHS Camden

The PCT has come out victorious, but only for the prize of most ridiculous brave face, following its humiliating Darzi centre climbdown this week

By Richard Hoey

The PCT has come out victorious, but only for the prize of most ridiculous brave face, following its humiliating Darzi centre climbdown this week

In our pre-Christmas issue, the Pulse team will be giving out our annual set of mock awards to those individuals or health organisations who have brought ridicule on themselves over the preceding year.

Only this time round, I feel compelled to hand out a gong a few weeks early… for the most ridiculously disingenuous media statement in the face of overwhelming scepticism.

NHS Camden sent out the following statement in response to Pulse's questions about the legal challenge which had finally forced the PCT to shelve its plans to push ahead with a privately run Darzi centre:

‘Following a three-month long consultation and an independent opinion poll by Populus, the residents of Camden have shown their overwhelming support, 85% in favour, for increased access to GP services through a GP-led health centres model.

‘With such strong support across the borough for extended GP hours and a GP-led health centre, NHS Camden has decided to seek the views of local residents again to see if they would support the creation of two easy-access health centres: one at Stephenson House on Hampstead Road and a second in the Kilburn area. NHS Camden will be asking the views of local people between the 1 December 2009 and the 1 March 2010.'

So, just in case you didn't get that – NHS Camden has decided that its GP-led health centre plan is so popular that… it's not going to press ahead with it.

So many patients desperately want the Darzi centre as soon as possible that… it is going to ask them again, just to make sure.

I'm not feeling fantastically disposed to this particular PCT, because the statement above was precisely the only information it was prepared to provide on its climbdown in face of the landmark legal action.

Its press office, like those of the rest of the NHS, is publically funded on the basis that the public has a right to know how its money is being spent, but that wasn't apparently sufficient motivation to prompt it to respond to our detailed questions, put up a spokesperson for interview or return one irate editor's phone call.

It could be of course that NHS Camden is feeling a little wounded at present. This, after all, isn't its first fantastically popular polyclinic project to hit the rocks.

The PCT had ambitious plans for the very first bona fide 50,000-patient polyclinic, just as Darzi had originally dreamed them up, but the proposals had to be scrapped after protests from GPs, patients… and Pulse.

Neither is it the first time the PCT has fallen foul of those awkward rules governing patient consultation. It was embarrassed last year when we revealed it had been holding secret talks with private providers before the polyclinic plans had ever been put to the public.

So, there's been plenty of history for NHS Camden, but this time it has scored a couple of firsts.

It's the first time there's been legal action over the lack of consultation on a Darzi centre – with all the attendant implications for the rest of the programme that brings.

And it's the first time the PCT has won its very own Pulse gong.

By Richard Hoey, Pulse editor

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