London polyclinics to provide up to half of outpatient treatment

A network of polyclinics, including GP surgeries, throughout London could provide up to 50 per cent of the outpatient treatment currently carried out in hospital by 2017, if proposals by a junior health minister are backed.

professor Darzi
professor Darzi

The report, Healthcare for London, by Sir Ara Darzi, professor of surgery at Imperial College, London, was commissioned by NHS London.

Professor Darzi points out that health services have improved for Londoners but many aspects of NHS services are not as good as they should be.

Professor Darzi says people are particularly unhappy with access to GP services outside normal working hours.

His report says GP practices in London are smaller than the England average, 54 per cent in London have only one or two GPs, compared with 40 per cent nationally.

Polyclinics would include GP surgeries, diagnostics such as x-ray and pathology, outpatient clinics, urgent care, minor procedures and associated services such as pharmacies.

Professor Darzi said: ‘Londoners face a stark divide between primary care and hospital care, and we believe 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.’

Dr Tiz North, chairman of the BMA’s London Regional Council, said: ‘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.

‘The review points out that many GP practices do not have the facilities to take on extra work, such as diagnostics and some hospital outpatient services, so surely it would make more sense to strengthen and build on the excellent services already provided by family doctors rather than invest in new providers.’

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