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Polyclinic plans face overwhelming opposition from GPs

By Steve Nowottny

The Government's plans for a nationwide network of polyclinics face overwhelming opposition from grassroots GPs, a Pulse survey reveals this week.

A poll of 300 GPs from across the country has found widespread fears that the polyclinic model will harm the quality of patient care, while respondents also showed huge resistance to working in the new health centres.

The findings come as Pulse launches our Save Our Surgeries campaign to prevent polyclinics being imposed on local communities and preserve the traditional general practice model of patient care.

We will be demanding guarantees that GPs and patients will be properly consulted before any change to local services – and that polyclinics or privately run health centres will not be imposed on communities.

Over the coming weeks we will be co-ordinating petitions on behalf of GPs and patients, lobbying opinion formers, campaigning for the support of medical bodies and fighting on behalf of local practices threatened with closure because of the proposals.

Despite promises of better premises and improved access to diagnostics, our survey shows the vast majority of GPs believe the Government's plans will harm patients.

As many as 85% of GPs told Pulse they believed polyclinics would damage patient care, and were likely to destroy the traditional doctor-patient relationship.

Almost nine in 10 respondents said they would not want to work in a polyclinic, with one in three saying they would refuse to do so.

Dr Adam Paxton, a GP in North Hykeham, Lincolnshire, said: ‘This is a solution looking for a problem. Even the PCTs think they are a bad idea.'

Plans for a wider rollout of polyclinics across the country received an overwhelming thumbs down. The Government has pledged to introduce one new polyclinic or GP-led health centre in every PCT in England, with deals to be signed by December 2008. But just 8% of GPs said their own PCO was in need of a polyclinic.

Dr Amanda Cary, a GP in Radlett in Hertfordshire, said: ‘West Hertfordshire where I practice is not under-doctored. This is a direct order from No 10 and is not wanted by the PCT nor local GPs. It is political interference at its worse.'

But Health Minister Ben Bradshaw insisted: ‘We're not imposing polyclincs on anyone. We announced the new GP-led health centres would offer core GP services and, where it makes sense, a range of other services. The mix will be determined locally by PCTs in partnership with clinicians and patients.'

What GPs think of Lord Darzi's polyclinic plans

Dr Angus Goudie, Houghton-le-Spring, near Sunderland
‘It's likely to prove wasteful and destructive of morale. The same benefits could be reached by inducement to work together, rather than creating division, fear and unnecessary competition.'

Dr Shan Whitear, Hadleigh, Essex
'Where is the extra money going to come from for polyclinics? I think it is all a waste of money. Why not make the services we have better?'

Dr Niifio Addy, Muswell Hill, north London
‘My first choice would be to be a stakeholder in the traditional practice model. If market forces dictated that I had to work in a polyclinic I don't think I would financially have a choice.'

Dr Andrew Davies, GP in Warrington
‘The timescale for development of polyclinics has meant a reactionary decision has been made without ample planning. This will fail to meet one of its major objectives of reduction in health inequalities.'

Dr Christopher Brophy, GP in Doncaster
'It makes no sense to introduce polyclinics while asking GPs to open for longer – why duplicate? Polyclinics are not needed and will cause confusion in patient care.'

Dr Michael Rooney, Stockport
‘Shame that the Government is moving investment away from evidence-based health services, to blatant political electioneering, which will damage the NHS.'

Dr Gaye Dickinson, Cramlington, Northumberland
'Northumberland PCT has been instructed to make plans for a polyclinic, with no evidence that this is needed. In fact, during the recent PMS budget negotiations we were told that Northumberland is relatively over-doctored.'

Dr Chris Goldie, GP in Cirencester, Gloucestershire
‘There are inevitably some areas where primary care is not as good as it might be, and in those areas poorly trained and transitory health professionals working under rigid management might well improve care.'

Tower Hamlets GPs Dr Nana Smart (right) and Dr Sella Shanmugadasan (second left) with patient reps Angela Harris and Leonard Aldis GPs are uniting in opposition to polyclinics

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