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Exclusive: 100 surgeries axed and more to follow

By Steve Nowottny

Up to 400 surgeries face closure in London alone, as polyclinic plans gain pace across the UK.

PCTs have drawn up plans to axe more than 100 GP surgeries across London to make way for the first wave of polyclinics, Pulse has learned.

As many as 400 surgeries across the capital face closure if the first eight PCTs to show their hand are representative.

London is set to be followed by Birmingham, Liverpool and Yorkshire and the Humber, all of which are developing their own plans for polyclinics.

A series of further SHAs are calling for greater ‘integration' of services.

But the pace of change is fastest in London, where Pulse has learned that eight of the capital's 31 PCTs have begun identifying practices to move or merge.

Some patients have already received letters informing them of proposed relocations, as Lord Darzi's radical vision becomes reality.

Kensington and Chelsea PCT's board last week approved the business case for a ‘hub-and-spoke' polyclinic at St Charles Community Hospital, to open in autumn 2009. Five practices will be relocated to the ‘hub', with a further 12 remaining as ‘spokes' in existing premises.

Elsewhere, City and Hackney PCT plans to relocate 18 practices, Ealing is to relocate 15 practices and at least 11 surgeries are thought to be under threat in Enfield.

Dr Mohammed Tahir, a GP in Kensington at one of the practices due to move, said in a letter backing the plan he was aware ‘patients may be concerned about losing the relationship with their GP'.

But he added: ‘There are also significant benefits in locating practices on one site.'

But Dr Sue Love, a GP in Enfield who fought a local campaign in 2005 against ‘super-surgeries', warned polyclinics could end up providing a ‘pizza-type service to patients'.

She acknowledged some practices would welcome a move to better premises, but added: ‘Polyclinics will be fine if they allow practices to stay independent, but I think the Government's agenda is to put us in buildings so it can control us.'

Dr Kambiz Boomla, chair of City and East London LMC, warned polyclinics could create ‘enormous access problems'.

‘People don't expect to take a bus to visit their doctor,' he said. ‘People expect their GP surgeries to be in walking distance of where they live.'

An NHS London spokesperson said it was ‘impossible to say' how many practices would be relocated, but stressed where surgeries were closed PCTs would consider the impact on travel. London PCTs are due to meet next month to approve the SHA's recommendations formally.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC negotiator and a GP in Stanmore, Middlesex, said the closure plans made ‘a mockery' of the consultation on the proposals. ‘PCTs have been beavering away on plans to herd GPs into polyclinics,' he said.

Practices under threat

Haringey – 37 surgeries to be closed, as PCT consolidates GPs into six polyclinics and 14 larger health centres
City and Hackney – 18 surgeries to be closed as PCT plans four ‘Primary Care Resources Centres'
Ealing – at least 15 practices to relocate into a merged polyclinic, a ‘hub-and-spoke' polyclinic and three GP-led health centres
Enfield – at least 11 practices with below-par premises to be relocated, with further surgery closures likely
Lambeth – at least 8 practices to be relocated into four Neighbourhood Resource Centres
Camden – 5 practices understood to be moving into University College Hospital polyclinic – no word on relocations to a further four health centres
Kensington and Chelsea – 5 practices have already told patients they will be relocating to ‘hub-and-spoke' polyclinic at St Charles Community Hospital
Waltham Forest – 2 single-handed surgeries planned to close, with the practices joining an existing practice in the redeveloped St James Health Centre

Dr Sue Love: the Government's agenda is to control us Dr Sue Love: the Government's agenda is to control us

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