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New polyclinic takes patients and staff from nearby practices

By Gareth Iacobucci

The first GP-led health centre in the country to open has already starting taking not only patients but also staff from neighbouring practices, Pulse can reveal.

Almost half the patients so far registered at the centre have come from nearby practices, even though it is situated in an under-doctored area of Bradford.

One local surgery has already lost two of its practice nurses to the centre after it offered them a significant pay rise.

The findings will heighten fears the new centres will destabilise practices following a recent report by the Health Services Management centre warning they would have to take up a fifth of GPs' patients to avoid becoming white elephants.

The Hillside Bridge Healthcare Centre in Bradford registered 198 new patients in its first two months of operation – 86 of whom transferred from other local practices.

Of the remaining new patients, 77 transferred from practices outside the catchment area, while 35 were previously unregistered patients.

Sarah Rhodes, practice manager at the nearby Avicenna Medical Practice, and chair of the local practice managers association, said two nurse practitioners and around 20 patients had defected to the new centre since it opened.

She said: ‘The main impact is staff moving down there because they pay more than the general practices do. We've lost both of our nurse practitioners. We're having to advertise and we're currently having to use locums.'

The centre, which also provides out-of-hours services in the area, is run by non-profit organisation Local Care Direct.

Alan Whitaker, communications & community relations manager at Local Care Direct, denied that the new centre was actively seeking to poach patients.

He said: ‘Local Care Direct is not aggressively seeking to register patients already with other local practices. Patients are at liberty to register wherever they like to find the service which best suits their needs.'

He added: 'We have advertised externally for nursing staff at different levels to fulfill different roles at different locations and do not actively seek to influence staff to leave other practices.'

But Pulse revealed last year that the Department of Health's own procurement guidelines had advised PCTs to set the practice boundaries for the new centres ‘as wide as possible' and ‘target potential patients' from existing practices.

Dr Kailash Chand, GPC member and a GP in Ashton-under-Lyne, said the findings showed GPs' concerns were well-founded.

He said: ‘They will poach patients from neighbouring practices or become white elephants. Either way the taxpayer will be short-changed.'

Nearly half of the Hillside Bridge's patients are from local practices Nearly half of the Hillside Bridge's patients are from local practices

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