By Ian Quinn
The arguments currently raging over the polysystems rollout - with GPs in both camps - have mainly focused on arguments about funding and the health benefits. Nobody, until now, has mentioned car parking...
But an article in this week's Croydon Advertiser, a training ground for some of the world's top journalists, may just have unearthed the Achilles Heel of the controversial new systems.
The article focuses on one of the three polyclinics planned for the Manhattan of South London - designed to serve a population approaching 120,000 each. And according to the Croydon Advertiser's report, the issue is not so much what quality of treatment patients will get - but how on earth they will get there in the first place.
Cash-strapped NHS Croydon was forced to axe its original plans for six polyclinics, each serving a population of between 50,000 and 70,000, because the money ran out, leaving the prospect of half as many, but far bigger, buildings being plonked in locations in the borough.
The report estimates up to 36,000 patients will use the facility in question every year, and says the figure does not even take into account an additional 18,000 potential visitors under proposals to divert up to 70 per cent of less acute A&E admissions from nearby Mayday Hospital.
Yet it is located in a road where residents already have a daily battle to find somewhere to park. Central Croydon MP Andrew Pelling, most famous for his call for the army to patrol the streets to stop knife wielding thugs, is now on the warpath against the proposals, claiming polysystems will cause parking chaos.
The issue ‘puts a big question mark' over NHS Croydon's plans, he says, adding: ‘It's just not practical. If you need emergency treatment you are not likely to go on the bus.'
‘Anyone driving you to the A&E - sorry, polyclinic - needs to park nearby.'
An NHS Croydon spokesperson told the paper that residents could park in one of the numerous multi-storey care parks that help make Croydon such a delightful place... but surely the MP has a point.
Anyone who has ever tried to park in London, or indeed most major cities, will know this issue is not unique to Croydon. Some patients may not be genuinely in need of A&E treatment - but they probably will be if they are forced to march halfway across the sprawling suburbs to get to an alternative.Taxi! Will patients have transport chaos getting to polyclinics? Taxi! Will patients have transport chaos getting to polyclinics?