One in seven practices face closure

Exclusive - GP's Valuing General Practice campaign highlights opposition to DoH reform.

One in seven practices are threatened with closure or relocation to a polyclinic, GP can reveal.

A survey of 276 GPs for our Valuing General Practice campaign found that 15 per cent face uncertainty.

Widespread GP opposition to government reform is also revealed by the survey. The majority of GPs called for polyclinics to be piloted, and opposed the DoH policy of opening one in every PCT.

They warned that continuity of care would be undermined by the move to larger primary care centres.

Dr Paul Harris, a partner at Belmont Medical Centre, Hereford, said Herefordshire PCT was planning a walk-in service at the County Hospital, just four miles away. He estimated that his 8,000-patient practice could lose up to a quarter of its list.

'Patients have the right to register with the walk-in service. Although it won't be providing full GMS at least to begin with, who knows what will happen in the future,' he said.

'The reason it affects us particularly is that we serve patients in the most deprived areas, who are clinically most likely to use this.'

The walk-in centre could serve 11,000 patients. 'If it took 2,000 of our patients, that would seriously destabilise the practice,' he said.

'This is the Labour party version of what Thatcher did to the miners. It will destroy the power base of independent contractors in the NHS.'

He said the DoH was putting private company services and the needs of shareholders above the needs of patients.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: 'GPs have to resist pressure to shut down their practices. I hope that they will encourage patients to fight closures.'

A DoH spokesman said: 'It is not and has never been the government's policy to introduce "polyclinics". We are investing £250 million in new GP services, not to replace existing GP surgeries, but to provide extra access to GP services and extra choice.

'Continuity of care is an NHS strength. It does not prevent the NHS offering other care models.'

Shadow Conservative health secretary Andrew Lansley said: 'Why won't the government listen to us, and to GPs, and develop GP services based on local needs and circumstances, rather than imposing polyclinics using diktats from Whitehall?'

neil.durham@haymarket.com

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