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PCTs sidestep consultation process in rush to polyclinics

By Steve Nowottny

PCTs are under such pressure to force through plans for polyclinics that they are sidestepping the normal processes for consulting with GPs and patients, Pulse can reveal.

Of eight PCT proposals analysed by Pulse, only one gives GPs and patients any say in the location of the new surgeries. One PCT admitted there was no point in consulting over whether polyclinic plans should go ahead, because ministers were insisting they had to.

The startling lack of consultation emerged as the Government's polyclinic drive met a wave of opposition across the country from GPs and patients, while Pulse's Save Our Surgeries campaign continued to build momentum.

More than 100 patients and GPs attended one meeting in Coventry to discuss concerns over plans for a polyclinic and two other APMS practices, with LMC leaders warning that they would ‘destabilise and undermine' existing surgeries.

Dr Jamie Macpherson, secretary of Coventry LMC, warned GPs and patients had been ‘presented with a fait accompli'. He said: ‘The PCT has produced a glossy leaflet for residents asking what services they want in the health centre, but it doesn't ask if they think they need one.'

The Government has told PCTs they must sign off tenders for at least one polyclinic by the end of December. Instead of consultations, PCT managers are pledging to run ‘engagement' exercises, or consult later on details, but the sites and many specifications have already been chosen.

Stephen Jones, joint chief executive of Coventry PCT, said the trust was ‘actively engaging local stakeholders and had distributed more than 10,000 leaflets. But a spokesperson admitted: ‘Because of the timescale, we're consulting on what services will look like, rather than whether they are wanted – because I don't think we've got much choice in the matter.'

Dr Jeffrey Oliver, a GP in Crawley, is furious that West Sussex PCT has unilaterally announced plans for a polyclinic based at Crawley Hospital, within yards of his practice. ‘There is no shortage of GP provision and this has been done without any consultation,' he said.

But a spokesperson for West Sussex PCT said the new 'health and wellbeing centre' would 'enhance local primary care and provide extended access to general medical services'.

'We will be involving patients, the public and key stakeholders over the coming weeks in discussion about the service specification that is being developed,' she said. 'Information will be made available to staff, patients and the public in due course.'

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul insisted the Government's timescale meant there was no chance of GPs and patients getting a proper say.

Save Our Surgeries Polyclinic protests

Coventry - More than 100 GPs and patients hold town meeting, warning new GP-led health centres could ‘destabilise' existing services

York - LMC leaders write to health secretary hitting out over ‘one-size-fits-all' plans for polyclinics

Worcestershire - LMC leaders take a 4,000-signature petition to Downing Street, objecting to Government plans for polyclinics and other changes to general practice

Rugby - More than 40 GPs hold a city-centre protest against plans for polyclinics

Somerset - GPs pay for local newspaper advertisements warning changes to primary care could force practices to close

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