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A faulty production line

MPs condemn imposition of polycinics

By Steve Nowottny

MPs have savaged the Government's decision to impose GP led health centres on every PCT, claiming the rollout should have been piloted first and there is no evidence it will improve patient care.

A report by the Commons health select committee issues a damning verdict on the central plank of the NHS Next Stage Review, adding the rollout of polyclinics has the potential to be a colossal waste of taxpayers' money.

The report, which closely echoes Pulse's Save Our Surgeries Campaign, which fought against GP-led health centres being imposed, comes as PCTs across the country announce the results of the tender process forced on them by Whitehall.

The committee warned: ‘We are not convinced by the Department of Heath's argument that all PCTs should have a GP-led health centre. We were disappointed neither the Government nor doctors could tell us what criteria should be used to decide whether a PCT needed one.'

The report strongly criticised Lord Darzi's rollout of polyclinics in London, with the first five due from April but no means of evaluating success established: ‘There is a risk roll out will precede the results of evaluation, which has the potential to waste taxpayers' money and be grossly inefficient.'

The committee said while GP-led health centres had the potential to offer closer collaborative between GPs, pharmacists and other clinicians, ‘simply bringing health professionals under the same roof' was not the answer.

It added that PCTs were hugely ill equipped to implement Lord Darzi's Next Stage Review, with trusts showing a ‘striking and depressing' lack of management skills.

Kevin Barron MP, chair of the Health Select Committee, said: ‘Lord Darzi's reforms must not just be the latest failure to make real change; the blueprint for effective reform is there, but the DH must respond to our concerns.'

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum, one of those to give evidence to the committee, said: 'The Government didn't listen to the BMA's concerns as it pushed headlong into introducing a new untested way of delivering healthcare. We hope they will now listen to the Health Select Committee and address some of the flaws in the Next Stage Review.'

Steve Barnett, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, defended PCTs' record on commissioning, arguing that the committee's criticism had been 'misplaced.'

'PCTs have strengthened their commissioning capacity significantly over the last two years and have plans in place to continue this improvement,' he said. 'With hard won financial stability, new expertise and the world class commissioning programme, we are confident that PCTs can deliver Lord Darzi's vision for the future of the NHS.'

But Dr Kaiser Chaudhri, a GP in Preston in Lancashire, welcomed the committee's report, and said the GP-led health centre programme had been ‘indiscriminate and a waste of public resources.'

‘To say one in each area doesn't really show there's been any real needs assessment of the different needs in different parts of the country,' he said. ‘You don't really want to be building things that aren't needed.'

Kevin Barron MP: chair of Health select committee which delivered damning verdict on polyclinic imposition Kevin Barron MP

MPs dissect Darzi

- Committee ‘not convinced' by need for GP-led health centre in every PCT – warns they should have been piloted instead

- PCTs lack planning skills necessary to implement reforms

- Focus on quality welcome but ‘the Committee does not accept that it was necessary or sensible to improve access before improving quality'

- Next Stage Review fails to give enough detail on financial implications – SHAs and PCTs should publish implementation costs as soon as possible

- Poor PCT commissioning may make implementation of reforms ‘slower and more uneven than expected'

- Praise for extent of consultation with both clinicians and patients in drafting NHS Next Stage Review

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