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'No evidence' for polyclinic rollout, GP-led research finds

By Steve Nowottny

Researchers have cast fresh doubt on the rationale behind the polyclinic rollout, after a study found that average-sized GP practices offer a similar range and volume of services to giant super-surgeries.

An observational study of 384 practices across 14 PCTs in England, published in the British Journal of General Practice, found there was ‘very little difference in service provision' between average-sized practices with just over 6,000 patients and super-surgeries with lists upwards of 30,000.

Dr Hendrik Beerstecher, a GP in Sittingbourne in Kent who undertook the study alongside researcher Claire Morgan, said the findings raised serious questions about the rationale behind the Government's drive for larger health centres and polyclinics.

‘The only objective for [the drive towards polyclinics] we could find was to reduce cost by taking on secondary care services,' he told Pulse.

‘We can't find any evidence that making practices bigger and bigger is actually going to do the job.'

‘The intuitive argument is that larger practices will have spare capacity - one GP might specialise in surgery or whatever and do additional work. But when we got the figures through it just didn't pan out that way.'

Dr Beerstecher also expressed surprise that the Department of Health did not appear to have conducted similar research already.

‘I was a bit surprised really that there hadn't been any studies before, because normally if you spend a lot of money and rearrange services you would want to know if your objective would be achieved by what you're going to do,' he said.

However the study did find that smaller-than-average practices do take on fewer enhanced services.

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