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Darzi accuses GPs of breaching ethics over polyclinics

19 June 2008

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The driving force behind the government’s push for polyclinics has claimed GPs are breaking their “professional vow” with patients by talking them into opposing the supersurgeries scheme.

Lord Darzi’s review of London GP surgeries in London led to his call for 150 polyclinics across the capital staffed by doctors and other health professionals. The government also wants to set up another 150 GP-led health centres across the rest of the country.

But patients and GPs have expressed strong opposition to the plans and the British Medical Association (BMA) collected 1.2 million signatures against the scheme.

At question time, Lord Darzi (pictured), who said he was a BMA member, told Tory Lord Naseby: “Patients have signed these forms based on their understanding at the time of their visit to their GP practices that their practices are about to close.”

He said the scheme is “not about closure” and added: “I am astonished at the doctor-led petition and alarmed that some patients have been forced or misled in signing petitions to save their local surgeries. The trusting relationship between any clinician and patient is sacrosanct and is one of the key values that underpins our professions.

“Misleading patients, breaking their trust by causing them unnecessary concern and worry breaks that professional vow we all take.”

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“I think that some aspects of the wide-ranging health service review that Lord Darzi has contructed have merit. But, does Lord Darzi not realise that his polyclinic plans in particular have the potential to leave his name as besmirched in the eyes of the public as Dr Beeching was in the early 60s, when he took a hatchet at the government’s behest to the railways? A bit like the railways, I suspect that once the polyclinic infrastructure is built, we will lose for good the very unique benefits of traditional British general practice, especially continuity of care. I think Darzi is sincere, but very misguided to have accepted this brief
from the government …” – Duncan Mann, Surrey

“None of the patients at my surgery were forced to sign the petition – in actual fact, not only did they sign, but also voiced their opinion against them.” – Name and address supplied

“If Lord Darzi or Ben Bradshaw have any evidence to back their suggestions that GPs somehow misled over 1.2 million people, they should produce the evidence. If they don’t have any evidence, they should accept what the petition is telling them. After the local election massacre, Gordon Brown said that he would listen. If the response to the petition is what this government means by ‘listening’, I suspect that the electorate will send them an even louder message at the next election” – Dr P S Buttar, Oxfordshire

“Lord Darzi should remember to sup with a long spoon when he dines with the Department of Health. All of the following have been suggested despite him claiming he just wants to reform London – a Darzi Centre in every PCT despite no local need, hundreds of thousands are being wasted; a suggestion to staff the centres with non-vocationally trained GPs; the wholescale involvement of the private sector, which inevitably means some health money going for profit to shareholders. He should report himself to the GMC for his unprofessional comments about his collegues in general practice” – Mark Couldrick, Devon

“If Professor Darzi thinks that pricipled and practical opposition to his plans are somehow unethical, then I think he got a bit of a humility deficiency. A bit sad, really, but also reflective of the state this government is in” – Dr Peter von Kaehne, Scotland

“Lord Darzi doth protest too much, methinks. The unelected Labour peer, a surgeon who has assumed responsibility for planning GP services, should consider the effect on general practice of the policies of the government of which he is part. GP surgeries ARE threatened by his proposals to allocate scarce NHS resources elsewhere. The government, curiously making the same noises as the CBI, wants to remove the Correction Factor from general practice funding, in contravention of assurances given at the time of approval of the GP contract. Those interested in the recent history of the NHS might sensibly read NHS plc by Allyson Pollock, Betraying the NHS by Michael Mandelstam, and Plundering the Public Sector by David Craig. Then they can decide for themselves whether it is reasonable for GPs to campaign as they have. Doctors can and arguably must speak out if patient care is threatened. It is simply not good enough for spurious arguments about ethics to be used
in an attempt to suppress legitimate concerns” – Peter Gooderham, Cardiff

“No one that I talked to was forced to sign the petition. Discussions took place outside the surgery setting in a rural area, where a polyclinic would be inappropriate. Besides, many individuals signed independently online” – Sue Overal, location withheld

“No. Not at all. Patients understand very well what is happening. Let Lord Darzi not underestimate patients’ understanding of the situation” – “Staff at S Hornchurch Health Centre”

“I have actually corrected my patients when they voiced worries about possible closure of my surgery – not immediate threat but could not guarentee the future. However, when I then explained that Prof Darzi’s clincs were being imposed by government in our area despite no local support and despite the assurances given by Prof Darzi, hundreds of patients signed the petition. I would value Prof Darzi’s plans a little more if he had ever worked in English general practice. Alternatively I as a GP  am waiting the call to reorganise tertiary surgical care for  England” – Gill Beck, Aylesbury

“No. Agreed some surgeries need refurbishment to provide good local services but the government have not invested in these for years. Instead they want to move practices into mini hospital polyclinics, which will be further away from patients’ homes. This idea has been thought up by a secondary care consultant who does not understand primary care. All the patients he sees usually need investigations so needs easy access to labs and X-rays. This is not the case for the majority of primary care
consultations. GPs should be geographically near where their patient lives” – Patricia Edney, location withheld

“As a GP I have been telling patients who ask me, what Lord Darzi’s plans with commercilaisation of general practice will mean long term, and how this could potentially affect the future quality and access to healthcare. The oath I swore included that I should do no harm to patients–- perhaps Lord Darzi needs to reflect on this!” – Grant Ingrams, Coventry

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