Revealed: the blueprint for the future of general practice
By Gareth Iacobucci
It's only one building – admittedly a smart and modern one – but according to the health secretary, it is a blueprint for the future of general practice.
Patients can receive standard GP services here, but they can also have art therapy or outpatient appointments, and access sexual health services and a teenage drop-in clinic.
If it all sounds rather like a polyclinic, ministers will insist it's not.
It's actually a GP-led health centre, the first one in the country to open its doors.
The Hillside Bridge health centre, in Bradford, will be staffed by an entirely salaried GP workforce of five doctors, working alongside five nurses and a healthcare assistant.
While the ratio is not as tilted in favour of nurses as the Government's national 3:1 procurement guidance suggests it will be in some PCTs, it is still a starkly different model to traditional general practice.
To mark the occasion, the health secretary, Alan Johnson, dropped in for an appointment – strictly on a walk-in basis of course – to help cut the red tape.
He was keen to give the new centre the ultimate seal of approval for a Labour minister – insisting it fulfilled the great Nye Bevan's vision for the NHS.
‘This is 21st century general practice,' he said. ‘This is Bevan's vision – where people could have access in one place to things like podiatry, services for people with long-term conditions and pharmacy. He probably didn't envisage an eight-til-eight, 365-day-a year service though.
He added: ‘In the future there will be fewer singlehanded practices, with more community services in a one-stop shop.'
The new centre, run by not-for-profit social enterprise Local Care Direct, which already runs out-of-hours services in Bradford, offers a fascinating glimpse of the Government's vision for general practice.
The maximum 120 appointments offered each day at the new centre will be split 72/48 between pre-bookable and walk-in consultations.
Its first wave of patients will come from the nearby Pollard Practice, whose 2,500-strong patient list and staff will transfer into the new LIFT-financed building. But over the next five years the PCT hopes to register 6,000 patients at the new centre.
Dr Saskia de Mowbray, lead GP and deputy clinical director of Local Care Direct, said the centre would offer a better quality of service than some local practices.
‘This is an underdoctored area and highly deprived. There aren't enough GPs and some of the local GP services aren't as attractive. This offers choice for patients.'
She added: ‘It's a big facility. I would hope we may eventually have social care and housing care in here too.'
Dr Sabanathan Chitsabesan, a salaried GP who will work at the new centre, said: ‘I would hope this is the vision of the future. It's providing care whenever patients want it.'The Health Secretary greets trust staff at the new centre The Health Secretary greets trust staff at the new centre A thoughtful Alan Johnson at the first GP-led health centre in Bradford A thoughtful Alan Johnson at the first GP-led health centre in Bradford The Health Secretary prepares to cut the red tape at Hillside Bridge The Health Secretary prepares to cut the red tape at Hillside Bridge Alan Johnson officially opens the first GP-led health centre Alan Johnson officially opens the first GP-led health centre Alan Johnson (centre) greets GPs and PCT officials at the launch of the first GP-led health centre in Bradford Alan Johnson (centre) greets GPs and PCT officials at the launch of the first GP-led health centre in Bradford Alan Johnson: happy with his walk-in appointment Alan Johnson: happy with his walk-in appointment The Hillside Bridge Health Centre - open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week The Hillside Bridge Health Centre - open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week