Exclusive Supermarket giant Morrisons has revealed it is considering following the lead of Sainsbury's and opening GP surgeries in store, in a move that will fuel the debate over the commercialisation of primary care.
Sainsbury's offers free space to GPs wanting to run a surgery in their supermarkets, and has two GP surgeries in place – in stores at Heaton Park, Greater Manchester, and Colne, Lancashire. It announced in June it would be opening six new in-store GP surgeries across the UK.
At the time, RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada said she was concerned supermarkets were not a suitable environment for primary care, warning: ‘Dealing with the sick and vulnerable needs more than a conveyer belt, quick-fix approach.'
But a spokesperson for Morrisons told Pulse the chain also had designs on primary care: ‘We are looking at provision of GP services in the store environment. [We're] potentially looking at a different model to the one Sainsbury's is using.'
That suggests Morrisons could be looking to charge GPs for setting up in its supermarkets, or might even be looking to become the first supermarket chain to directly run GP practices. The chain said the timescale for introducing GP surgeries was ‘unclear'.
Dr David Melville, a GP in Havant, expressed concern at the move: ‘Patients are going to walk into supermarkets past all the donuts, the unhealthy food, the highly salted food, to get to the GP.'
‘Having a supermarket owning the building could prejudice GP independence.'
Tesco, Asda and Waitrose said they had no plans to follow suit.