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Row breaks out over polyclinic impact on nearby surgeries

By Steve Nowottny

A furious row erupted today over the impact that the new wave of polyclinics will have on neighbouring practices.

Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley had claimed that practices in close proximity to the new GP-led health centres would lose up to a quarter of their patient lists to the new surgeries.

But health minister Ann Keen hit back at the ‘bizarre' claims – and the Conservatives later withdrew their statement after admitting their researchers' calculations were flawed.

The alarming claims came from a detailed analysis of PCT proposals by Conservative party researchers, based on the estimated number of registered patients at each new polyclinic being recruited equally from among existing nearby practices. The Tories had warned that on average, each practice near to a new polyclinic could lose at least 400 patients. Nationally, the polyclinics are expected to register more than 600,000 patients.

But a Conservative party spokesman later withdrew the statement after it emerged that the calculations were incorrect, and could have overstated the impact on existing practices.

The calculations had been based on the predicted impact on the average list sizes of individual GPs rather than practices, he admitted.

Health minister Ann Keen said: ‘The suggestion that these health centres are a threat to existing GP practices is nonsense.'

‘You will not have to de-register from your existing GP to use a health centre. This is about increasing patient choice.'

Over recent months Conservative party researchers have issued a string of warnings over the new wave of polyclinics, highlighting the lack of consultation by PCTs and publishing a list of 600 practices believed to be under direct threat.

But other figures – such as the warning in April that polyclinics could force 1,700 practices to close – have been dismissed by experts. GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman last week told Pulse: ‘I don't recognise those figures. What they've done is taken the London figures and extrapolated them to England.'

Andrew Lansley: claims polyclinics will have disastrous impact on nearby GP surgeries Andrew Lansley: claims polyclinics will have disastrous impact on nearby GP surgeries

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