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One in six trusts will fail to hit polyclinic deadline

By Gareth Iacobucci

PCTs have fallen massively behind in meeting the Government's target for the rollout of Lord Darzi's GP-led health centres, Pulse can reveal.

Official figures show that 20 trusts, more than one in six, will not have their centres open by the Department of Health's April 1 deadline, with some facing delays of up to eight months.

Pulse recently revealed that a handful of trusts had been granted extensions to the original December deadline for signing deals, with many struggling to find suitable premises in such a tight timescale.

But Department of Health statistics for October show that 17% of PCTs (20 of 118) are off course, with four estimating their centres will not be operational until December 2009. A further five said they will not be up and running until October 2009 at the earliest.

The figures are bound to heap yet more controversy on the deadlines imposed on trusts.

A recent Pulse survey revealed that at least a third of the centres are to be located in temporary buildings because PCTs had run out of time to find premises, with one trust even planning to situate its centre in a car park.

The figure excludes London PCTs, who have been granted an extension until 2010 to develop their centres, and may combine them with existing plans for polyclinics.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said the slippage was the strongest evidence yet that the Government's timescale was unrealistic.

He said: ‘The timescale has been unrealistic; it was inevitable that trusts would struggle to achieve it.

However, he warned that those trusts that had met the deadline may not have carried out enough planning and consultation as they rushed to meet the deadline.

He added: ‘It's a shame there aren't more declaring they need more time, as the ones that have may do a better job. It's unfortunate the DH has pushed this along so quickly, as that's where mistakes will be made.'

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