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NHS makes polyclinic U-turn

By Steve Nowottny

PCT bosses in London have universally rejected Lord Darzi's proposals for a series of massive single-site polyclinics in the biggest blow yet to the Government's controversial plans.

NHS London confirmed that all 31 London PCTs had submitted proposals for ‘hub-and-spoke' polyclinics rather than single-site polyclinics, which would have seen up to 25 GPs working in a single building serving as many as 50,000 patients.

The admission represents a major U-turn on the part of Healthcare for London and a notable victory for Pulse's Save Our Surgeries campaign, with likely implications for larger polyclinics proposed elsewhere.

But patients have held renewed protests in support of the first of hundreds of surgeries still threatened by closure, as PCTs look to move practices into the hubs of ‘hub-and-spoke' polyclinics.

Lord Darzi's original Healthcare for London plan had talked up the benefits of single-site polyclinics, while Pulse revealed in March that a number of PCTs had proposed single-site pilots. In May, Healthcare for London programme director David Sissling urged trusts to develop the ‘full range' of polyclinic models.

But PCTs are now admitting that have altered or delayed their plans.

A source at one PCT told Pulse a single-site pilot had only been proposed ‘because we were told we had to apply'.

‘All the PCTs had to apply in London,' she said. ‘That was the only reason it was included as a possible polyclinic.'

Barking and Dagenham PCT said that while a polyclinic serving 30,000 patients could still be built to serve the Thames Gateway area, no development would start until 2011 at the earliest.

And Ealing PCT, which had proposed a pilot single-site polyclinic in West Ealing, said the project would now go ahead outside the polyclinic programme.

Dr Tony Stanton, joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said: ‘If this is indeed the case, it would suggest that some common sense has prevailed.'

Last week dozens of patients turned out to a public meeting in support of four practices in Camden who are among the first in London to face relocation into a polyclinic.

Camden PCT insists the south Camden polyclinic, to be based in University College London Hospital, will now be developed under the federated model – but local GPs warned their surgeries would be closed and patient care suffer as a result.

Dr Denise Bavin, a GP at the Museum Practice, said she had been ‘amazed' at the level of patient support.

‘A lot of my consultations now are taken up with people asking what's happening,' she said.

‘Most of the people who've come forward said we don't want you to move. It would be very hard to maintain our individuality, to maintain the ethos of the practice.'

Save Our Surgeries: GPs in London protest against polyclinics Save Our Surgeries: GPs in London protest against polyclinics

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