Exclusive: GPs face working in polyclinics open 24 hours a day

GPs in London face seeing non-urgent patients throughout the night, under new polyclinic plans.

PCTs have been told polyclinics in the capital will be required to open for between 18 and 24 hours a day, according to NHS London's latest proposals.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said the plans implied there would be routine care around the clock, for which there was very little demand.  

‘It will provide an inferior service to a small number of patients, who would get better treatment during the day,' said Dr Buckman.

Consultation on the proposals has now finished, with NHS London saying responses, which totalled 3,500, indicated ‘broad support' for the plans. 

Londonwide LMCs oppose the plans, part of Lord Darzi's review of healthcare in London, saying there is no evidence to suggest polyclinics are effective.

All 31 London PCTs must now submit plans for a polyclinic to serve a population of around 50,000 patients. NHS London aims to replace most GP practices with a network of 150 polyclinics across the city in the next 10 years. 

A spokesman for NHS London said the plans were ‘just a framework' and no details of services to be provided during the night had been discussed.

Sweeping reforms to the structure of general practice continue across England too, despite growing opposition to polyclinics from GPs, primary care organisations and patient groups. 

Professor Martin Roland, director of the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, has recently criticised the polyclinic model, saying Lord Darzi needs to rethink his plans for England.

In an article in the BMJ, Professor Roland said that patients preferred smaller practices, and that they performed better in the quality framework. 

One new polyclinic, open seven days a week, from 8am until 8pm, will be built by each PCT in England in the coming year.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

BMJ 336; 625-6

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