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Study condemns polyclinics and walk-in health centres

23 September 2008

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The relationship between GP and patient is likely to be undermined by polyclinics and walk-in health centres, a new study warns.

Dr Carolyn Tarrant and Tim Stokes, from the department of health sciences at the University of Leicester, and Andrew Colman from the school of psychology, carried out the research.

Their results show that patients have a better experience when they feel they are offered good continuity of care and consistent information.

The report says trust between patients and GPs is known to create positive outcomes, including patients being more likely to stick to their course of treatment.

Meanwhile, Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: “Trust and continuity of care are exactly the reasons why general practice can’t be delivered supermarket-style, where choice and convenience come above everything else.

“A long-term relationship with a doctor they trust and who knows their history is vital. GPs and patients believe polyclinics will damage that relationship.”

The government has instructed every primary care trust (PCT) in England to create a new clinic. It insists they are different from polyclinics, saying the polyclinic model for London may not work in other parts of the country.

But campaigners believe ministers have simply dropped the term “polyclinic” due to its unpopularity.

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British Medical Associaton

A polyclinic by any other name…? Will the polyclinic model work outside London? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

“Although the whole concept of establishing polyclinics needs serious consideration, properly staffed centres can bring positive benefits, if they are introduced correctly. For instance, the nation’s wellbeing could be given a huge boost if polyclinics, community centres and other locations such as supermarkets become places where people’s mental health is given a priority. If we use these community focal points as centres for outreach and to provide early access to therapies, we may prevent people, many of whom are from our poorest or minority communities, from spiralling into mental health crisis. Preventive services like these will have a direct impact on employment, by helping people to stay in work, in reducing substance misuse and by driving all-round better physical health. This also brings huge savings for the NHS. Polyclinics need to be designed to provide a new kind of service that is accessible to everyone and is better suited to meeting the needs of local people. Social care is often neglected in this discussion. Polyclinics need to have an ‘interface’ relationship with, and have easy access to, other community outlets, to ensure a joined-up service that works for the people that need those services the most. Let’s have a vision of polyclinics, working with the local community, and staffed by wellbeing coordinators, helping to prevent many people from reaching mental health crisis.” – Steve Palmer, Turning Point