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King's Fund report slams polyclinic plans

By Steve Nowottny

Replacing local GP surgeries with polyclinics will cause a ‘dramatic reduction' in access and is unlikely to significantly improve patient care, according to a major new report from the King's Fund published today.

The report warns PCTs against a ‘wholesale concentration of general practice services' in same-site polyclinics, and urges them to consider instead alternatives such as the hub-and-spoke or federated model.

While researchers argue polyclinics could help deliver integrated care for some patients, particular those with long-term conditions, they warn excessive centralisation will deter patients from travelling longer distances to see their local GP.

‘The consequent reduction in access to primary care would be a major sacrifice, not adequately compensated for by the relatively smaller gains in access to specialist care,' the report concludes.

The study also questions whether polyclinics will be able to deliver savings in primary or secondary care, warning there is ‘little published evidence to suggest that the reconfigured system would make substantial savings.'

‘Indeed the evidence suggests that in some cases costs would be increased,' it adds.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the King's Fund, said there should be ‘no compulsion' for PCTs to follow a ‘centrally dictated model of care.'

‘We welcome the government's assurance that there will be no national blueprint, but that needs to be spelt out in unequivocal terms,' he said.

‘Polyclinics may be the right answer in some areas, they will not be right for others.'

The report comes as the BMA's annual consultants' conference overwhelmingly rejected an imposed model of privately-owned polyclinics across England.

Dr Jonathan Fielden, chair of the consultants' committee, called on the Government to ‘dump the polyclinic plan'.

‘The centrally enforced polyclinic plan holds no water, has no benefit and no financial gain,' he said.

Earlier this week a BMA survey of 1,587 consultants found widespread opposition to polyclinics, with 60% warning they would not improve patient care.

Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said it was now time for the Government to ditch its centrally imposed polyclinic plans.

He said: 'There may be advantages to having polyclinics in certain circumstances, but this report makes clear that Labour must now ditch its one-size-fits-all approach and stop pushing forward with a scheme which is likely to lead to the closures of hundreds of GP surgeries. It would completely destroy the relationship between local people and their family doctor.

'At the very least, Labour should have piloted polyclinics to see where they would work instead of imposing them in places where there's no evidence of a need for them and where local people don't want them. Unfortunately the Government are yet again refusing to listen to the public or the professionals.'

Polyclinics: King's Fund calling for Government to scrap national rollout Polyclinics: King's Fund calling for Government to scrap national rollout

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