PCTs told to offer 24-hour polyclinics

Exclusive - London GPs face working through the night to see routine appointments.

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

PCTs have been told that 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 that 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 that there was broad support for the plans among the 3,500 responses it received.

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

The plans received an overwhelmingly negative response from GP readers, with 55 per cent of UK GPs saying polyclinics would have a negative effect on patient care. In the survey of 205 GPs, 94 per cent said a polyclinic in each PCT was a bad use of NHS resources.

Lord Darzi's review of the NHS in England will conclude in June.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

Professor Roland's article

Bad for patients
55% of GPs think polyclinics will have a negative impact on patients

Source: GP survey

Waste of money
94% of GPs think polyclinics are not a good use of resources

Source: GP survey.

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