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Confusion as Darzi claims polyclinic is 'just a term'

By Steve Nowottny

The minister behind the Government's polyclinic push has added to the huge confusion surrounding it, by dismissing the very word polyclinic as ‘just a term'.

Health minister Lord Darzi first proposed polyclinics in his Healthcare for London report, published last summer, and set out a clear template for them.

Each polyclinic was expected to house up to 25 GPs and serve around 50,000 patients, based all under one roof, or in some cases located in satellite practices.

They were also supposed to be open at least 18 hours a day, offer evening and weekend appointments, and house a range of specialist services.

Yet this week Lord Darzi, writing in his own NHS blog, insisted there was no single model and claimed the 152 new GP-led health centres, proposed in his interim report last October could also be described as polyclinics. The health centres will mostly be smaller than the original polyclinics, open just 12 hours a day, and are unlikely to provide as wide a range of specialist services.

‘People have given these many different names, including polyclinics, primary healthcare centres or super surgeries,' he said. ‘A "Polyclinic" is just a term for a building that houses a range of health services. So let's stop talking about buildings and the names we ascribe to them.'

The Department of Health, in a statement to Pulse last week, also said its health centres could be called polyclinics, confirming that the introduction of polyclinics is indeed now a national programme.

Lord Darzi's comments make the words of GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman, in the wake of the Healthcare for London report last year, look prophetic.

He told Pulse at the time that PCTs were likely to rebrand existing projects as polyclinics in order to toe the Government line. ‘PCTs are sheep,' he said. ‘If the message comes out of the centre, call it a polyclinic, they'll call it a polyclinic.'

Dr Stephen Amiel, chair of Camden and Islington LMC, said this week there was ‘a lack of information and clarity'. ‘Whether they're GP-led health centres or polyclinics, there seems to be an agenda with an unstoppable momentum,' he said.

Lord Darzi: comments have added to confusion over polyclinics Lord Darzi: comments have added to confusion over polyclinics

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