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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs cry foul over polyclinic threat

By Steve Nowottny

PCTs across the country plan to plant polyclinics in areas with no shortage of capacity in a manner which is directly threatening the viability of existing practices, Pulse can reveal.

Plans for a raft of new polyclinics across the UK emerged this week – housing up to a dozen doctors - as the drive to implement Lord Darzi's proposals nationwide picked up pace.

But GPs told Pulse they feared the proposals would have a disastrous impact on their practices, with support growing for Pulse's campaign to oppose the imposition of the Darzi model of care.

Trusts are rushing out plans for more than 150 new polyclinics to open next year, with scores more additional practices in so-called under-doctored areas.

In Kent alone, four new health centres have been earmarked to open within a 1.5 mile radius of one Chatham practice – even though it still has an open list and can register 200 patients a month.

The new centres, which will cost a total of £4m, are likely to host a dozen new GPs, and cater for an additional 24,000 patients.

Dr Christine Huxham, senior partner at the King's Family Practice in Chatham, said she feared for the future: ‘Undoubtedly we're going to fall dramatically. I don't know whether we will be viable.'

Dr Huxham said the practice – recently praised by primary care tsar Dr David Colin-Thome for coping with high levels of social deprivation – had not been consulted on a single aspect of the plans. ‘We've just been told it's happening,' she said. ‘We've had no say in it at all.'

Marion Dinwoodie, chief executive of Medway PCT, said the ‘ambitious but realistic' plans would ‘bring 21st century care closer to those people who need it,' claiming the impact on existing surgeries would be ‘limited'.

But GPs in other areas of the country have echoed the fears. Western Cheshire PCT has revealed it is to site a polyclinic, open 8 till 8, seven days a week, in the Blacon area of Chester. The centre, which will see GPs co-located with other community services and offer both routine and walk-in appointments, is due to open in September 2009.

PCT bosses argue the Blacon area was chosen because it has high levels of deprivation and inappropriate use of A&E services. But Dr Anthony Shanahan, a GP in the city, said the plan represented a ‘considerable destabilising threat' and was a ‘senseless waste of money'.

‘Within the area one of these practices is already struggling for sufficient patients,' he said. ‘Can you imagine the effect this has on morale?'

GPs in Scarborough warned plans for a new GP-led health centre were being ‘rushed through without adequate consultation', predicting APMS practices would cherry-pick younger, healthier patients, leaving existing practices with a higher workload.

Dr Christine Huxham (far left) and colleagues fear polyclinics will have dire impact Dr Christine Huxham (far left) and colleagues fear polyclinics will have dire impact

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