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Independents' Day

Darzi launches London polyclinics but rules out national rollout

By Gareth Iacobucci

The first full-scale polyclinics in the UK have finally arrived across London, 659 days since being proclaimed as the future of general practice.

But it took the man whose vision they were just a few moments to kill off the prospect of similar facilities opening across the country.

Health minister Lord Darzi was on hand to unveil the £18m LIFT-funded clinic in Redbridge, East London, one of seven new centres in the capital opening last week.

Even the London polyclinics are a far cry from the hugely controversial original plans, after NHS managers scrapped proposals for large single-site models, housing up to 25 GPs in one building, in favour of a ‘hub-and-spoke' approach.

But Lord Darzi gave a clear signal that the Government has ditched plans for the model to be expanded elsewhere, telling Pulse it had now concluded that bringing GPs together on such a large scale might not be the answer outside the capital.

‘No, I don't believe so,' he said, when asked if similar projects would follow.

‘Urban areas always have challenges and in some cases they are similar. Some parts of London are similar in health inequalities to some parts of Manchester. However, the solution to these problems may be different,' he added.

A number of PCTs including North East Lincolnshire and several in Birmingham and Liverpool are pressing ahead with their own versions of polyclinics, but Lord Darzi said he suspected they would work on quite different ‘delivery models'.

Loxford polyclinic in Redbridge, the only purpose built polyclinic of the first seven, will host two PCT-run GP practices, but only around 6-12 salaried GPs, alongside new services such as a healthy living café and a rehabilitation gym.

The 59 consulting rooms will deal with outpatient appointments for chest and heart, neurology, ENT, obstetrics, orthopaedics and physiotherapy among others.

The centre will also host diagnostics, dentistry, community specialist services like diabetes, minor surgery and dermatology, plus midwifery, and mother and baby clinics.

An on-site pharmacy will offer a minor ailments service, a stop-smoking programme and chlamydia screening.

Four other local practices will act as ‘spokes', retaining their registered lists, while encouraging their patients to use services at the centre.

Although the polyclinic will serve a local population of 50,000 - in line with the original plans Pulse campaigned against - almost two-thirds of these will not see a GP at the hub. Some 20,000 patients are expected to register within three years – including the combined list of 12,000 from the two existing practices.

Lord Darzi

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