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Tony Blair's former health policy adviser has called on ministers to examine whether there is 'too much health care' in the NHS.

Professor Julian Le Grand, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, told the NHS Confederation conference last week that walk-in centres and NHS Direct needed to be scrutinised to see if they added value.

He said: 'They are very popular with patients but they haven't yet led to a significant drop in demand for GPs and A&E. Is this an example of too much health care or is it fulfilling an unmet need that we didn't know was there?'

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt was also forced to defend walk-in centres last week after an MP asked why they cost £10 more per consultation than GP surgeries.

Tony Baldry, Conservative MP for Banbury, asked whether Ms Hewitt could be 'sure she was getting value for money' when treating a patient at a walk-in centre cost £25 compared with £15 at a GP surgery.

Ms Hewitt said walk-in centres were a new service with lower usage.

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