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NHS forges ahead with polyclinic plans

By Steve Nowottny

NHS bosses in London are drawing up a blueprint for the introduction of polyclinics across the capital – even though the public has yet to back the plans.

The Healthcare for London consultation, which does not close until early March, stepped up a gear this week with the first in a series of public meetings held to discuss the plans.

Half a million consultation documents have been distributed, with respondents asked a wide range of questions – including whether the polyclinic model should be adopted at all.

But Healthcare for London admitted this week that a team of policy and clinical advisers was already drawing up a blueprint for how polyclinics would work.

Don Neme, Healthcare for London's director of communications, said the Polyclinics Workstream was researching issues raised following the publication of Lord Darzi's Framework for Action report last summer.

‘They're looking at some of the issues – how could we resolve transport issues, whether the finance model is as good as it could be, where we might run pilots, what would be good things to try out,' he said.

‘We're not prejudging the outcome of the consultation. We feel it is appropriate to keep momentum going, as a lot of people have told us to investigate the possibilities of polyclinics.'

Meanwhile fresh fears have been raised that the private sector will dominate polyclinics as well as the new GP health centres announced by the Government at the end of last year.

In an interview with The Guardian, health secretary Alan Johnson said he saw a major role for private firms in running new health centres.

‘Lots of them will be run by the private sector,' he said. ‘We will bring in GPs employed by private organisations.'

Dr Stewart Drage, joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said he was aware of at least two PCTs in London who had offered health centre tenders exclusively to private sector pro-viders – and feared polyclinics could follow.

‘The health service is being required to issue APMS contracts in spades, so I wouldn't be surprised if APMS providers were there,' he said.

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