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Polyclinics to revamp London healthcare

11 July 2007

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A network of polyclinics that provide treatment usually carried out in hospital could sprout across London if Health Minister Ara Darzi’s proposals go to plan.

Mr Darzi’s report “Healthcare for London” published today, points out that Londoners often visit hospital for short-term illnesses that are not life-threatening but need prompt treatment, as they have poor access to community clinics.

He says that Londoners are also frustrated with limited access to GPs outside of normal office hours.

London GP practices are smaller than the national average, 4% of Londoners only have one or two GPs in their clinic compared with 40% across the nation.

Ara Darzi’s proposed polyclinics would provide GP facilities and associated services such as pharmacies.

They will also provide diagnostics such as x-ray and pathology, outpatient care, urgent care and treat minor injuries.

Mr Darzi says: “Londoners face a stark divide between primary care and hospital care and we believe that the polyclinic will fill that gap.

“Most GPs provide an excellent and well-regarded service, but they do not have the facilities to undertake even quite simple diagnostics on site, which means patients face multiple trips to hospital for quite straightforward procedures.”

But British Medical Association Chairman of the London Regional Council Tiz North is not so sure, saying: “The concept of care closer to patients’ homes may sound appealing but polyclinics have the potential to destabilise and fragment existing hospital and GP services.

“It seems odds to invent a new model for healthcare when there is already a sucessful and proven system of general practice which is highly-rated and trusted by patients.”

Healthcare for London

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“I believe ‘polyclinics’ are an American idea and I have actually seen one working in a small town in America. I have to say it works really well as patients see their family doctor and can have X-rays, tests, minor surgery done on the premises and if a diagnosis becomes too difficult they then send the patient to the hospital. However, having said that I have worked for a single handed practitioner for 24 years and seen many changes but it is so sad to see the disappearance of the small personal family GP who knows every one of his patients so well. Our PCT is planning to shut our purpose-built surgery next March as the doctor intends to retire and give our list to another practice so that they can possibly build a ‘polyclinic’ in the near future” – Lorraine Brett, Newbury