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Meldrum: my reluctance over polyclinic bid

By Steve Nowottny

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum has defended his decision to bid for one of the new wave of GP-led health centres, describing it as the ‘least worst option' and claiming that ‘the lesser evil was to get involved.'

In an exclusive interview, he said he had initially opposed GP-led health centres and had only bid for an APMS contract in Bridlington, east Yorkshire with ‘great reluctance'.

‘My view is you always try to take a pragmatic view,' he said. ‘You oppose things you don't believe in, but if you haven't been successful in that, it seems to me perverse to almost adopt a head-in-the-sand attitude and think we'll ignore it and hope it will go away.'

‘I think if you can't win that first battle, then you look at how you minimise the impact and minimise the potential for destabilisation.'

Dr Meldrum was part of a collaboration of four local practices and a PCT provider arm, NHS East Riding of Yorkshire Community Services, which was awarded a contract for Bridlington's new GP-led health centre, due to open in June.

He insisted that winning the contract would not prevent him standing up for practices elsewhere threatened by the new GP-led health centre procurement.

‘I would hope not,' he said. ‘In areas where the local practices perhaps haven't been as successful in preventing the centre happening or preventing it developing in a way which might threaten them, then I still feel it is quite legitimate that I lobby on their behalf.'

'In answer to those who believe I've acted hypocritically, I would say the BMA campaign was always clear – we were not against any polyclinics anywhere, we were against the one size fits all approach and the fact that they were being imposed.'

Dr Meldrum also claimed that some publicity put out by GPs in the wake of the BMA's Support Your Surgery campaign last year had been alarmist in nature.

He said: ‘One of two colleagues independent of the BMA had produced their own material some of which we would not support. All the material we produced was checked by our lawyers and everybody else, but there's no doubt that there was some material that was produced by GPs independently that I think was not the right sort of material and I would condemn that.'

But he refused to criticise remarks made by GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman in a Pulse interview in August warning that the new GP-led health centres could have a ‘doughnut of death' effect on neighbouring practices.

‘Lawrence is well known for his style, and I think a lot of people admire that style,' he said. ‘He uses colourful phrases.'

Dr Hamish Meldrum: said bidding for polyclinic was 'the lesser evil' Dr Hamish Meldrum: said bidding for polyclinic was 'the lesser evil'

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