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Independents' Day

NHS chiefs claim public mandate for herding GPs into polyclinics

By Nigel Praities

NHS managers are claiming to have won a public mandate to shift thousands of GPs into polyclinics, after a survey showed tentative public support for Lord Darzi's plans.

The poll, conducted among 4,000 patients by Ipsos Mori, found 51% of Londoners supported plans for ‘almost all GPs' to be based in polyclinics, with a third against.

NHS London's plans are widely viewed as a blueprint for what may be to come in other towns and cities. The survey came days after Heart of Birmingham PCT told GPs in the UK's second biggest city they will have to re-locate to a network of 24 polyclinics or be replaced by private providers.

A Londonwide LMCs report revealed huge opposition to polyclinics among GPs. But revealing details of the poll, David Sissling, programme director for Healthcare for London, said the consultation had shown that the public supported polyclinics. ‘One of the things that comes through is the case for change that was set out by Lord Darzi in his work is being generally accepted,' he claimed.

Yet the report itself admits that opinion in London is divided. While those in favour thought the integration of care in polyclinics would benefit patients, it says there are ‘strong feelings' among the 29% who disagreed.

‘They were concerned about the impact on the GP-patient relationship, the loss of continuity of care, and the extra travel for patients,' it says.

Londonwide LMCs this week released its own rival poll of 1,500 patients claiming seven out of ten patients had not heard about the consultation and only one in ten people supported most GPs moving into polyclinics.

Dr Stewart Drage, joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said: ‘Can NHS London really be happy with such questionable results? I'm not sure I would be.'

Elsewhere, however, plans for polyclinics are even more advanced, with Birmingham PCT warning GPs they would have to move into 24 new surgeries in the next five years or be replaced by private providers.

Dr Vijay Abrol, a single-handed GP in Birmingham who was among around 80 GPs at a meeting to discuss the proposals last week, said: ‘The PCT has this agenda and they are going to go on the premise that it is GPs who are not providing a good service, whereas we are doing our best and we have high QOF achievements.'

Key findings of London consultation

- 51% strongly agreed or tended to agree almost all GP practices in London should be part of a polyclinic, compared with 29% strongly disagreeing or tending to disagree
- Opposition to polyclinics was stronger among older patients, with those in the 55-64 age group more likely to strongly disagree (24%)
- 79% thought GP services were the most important feature of a polyclinic, 75% wanted diagnostic tests and 53% wanted minor procedures

Lord Darzi: NHS chiefs claim Londoners back his plans Lord Darzi: NHS chiefs claim Londoners back his plans

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