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Minister plans surgery mergers

Plans to merge GP practices in London into a series of so-called polyclinics may be extended beyond the capital, after the surgeon behind the plans was given a top job in Gordon Brown's new health team.

Professor Sir Ara Darzi, appointed parliamentary under-secretary for health under new health secretary Alan Johnson, is the brains behind the Healthcare for London review to be launched next week.

The report will highlight the role of polyclinics, a similar concept to supersurgeries, where between eight and 10 GP practices are based in the same building, with specialist and consultant support. A spokesman for NHS London confirmed polyclinics would play a 'key role' in the report. 'The plan is that they would be across the capital,' he said. 'It's a 10-year plan – at the end of the 10 years it's possible that most GP clinics will be within these polyclinics.'

However, the plans have already caused controversy with Dr Tony Stanton, joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, urging Professor Darzi to ensure local GP services were not 'sacrificed for a polyclinic model'. A spokeswoman for Londonwide LMCs said: 'Professor Darzi's appointment could lead you to question whether perhaps the rollout beyond London is potentially imminent.'

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