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Walk-in centres axed as PCTs prepare for polyclinics

By Steve Nowottny

PCTs across the country are closing down walk-in centres to make way for the new wave of polyclinics, a Pulse investigation reveals.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows at least 10 trusts have decided to axe walk-in centres or merge them with new GP-led health centres.

The moves appear to directly contradict Government guarantees that the new centres would provide only additional capacity, and not replace existing services.

They have heightened concerns that GP surgeries may also end up being closed to make way for polyclinics.

Ministers have repeatedly stressed that its Equitable Access in Primary Care programme – and the £250 million attached to it – was intended to establish new provision.

But Norfolk PCT last week decided to close its walk-in centre despite strong opposition from patients, including a 5,600-signature petition.

PCT bosses insist the walk-in element of its new GP-led health centre, to be based in central Norwich, will have almost doubled capacity.

And North East Essex decided its new GP-led health centre in Colchester would incorporate the existing walk-in service, following an eight-week public consultation.

Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, PCT chief executive, sought to reassure GPs that the new centre would not threaten existing surgeries, and did represent an ‘additional facility'.

But GP leaders claimed scrapping existing walk-in centres made a nonsense of Government pledges and that GP surgeries would be next.

Dr Grant Ingrams, a GPC member from Coventry, where the local walk-in centre will also be merged with a new polyclinic, said: ‘The whole project is based upon lies and fallacies.'

A Department of Health spokesman said the decision on existing walk-in centres was a ‘local matter', and while they might be co-located with GP-led health centres, the capacity would be additional.

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