A quarter of PCTs have no need to build polyclinics

Researchers say polyclinics are being located in wrong areas.

Nearly a quarter of PCTs are building a polyclinic that is unnecessary or badly needed elsewhere, say researchers.

A demographic analysis of the location of GP-led health centres found that 36 PCTs had no suitable location for a polyclinic, while 30 others would benefit from up to four centres.

Based on Ordnance Survey mapping © Crown copyright. Media AM115/07

Based on Ordnance Survey mapping © Crown copyright. Media AM115/07

 

The DoH is insisting that one GP-led health centre be developed in each of the 152 PCTs in England by next year.

But the researchers say locations for the new centres should have been planned in a more strategic way.

Ian Thurman, who headed the research for demographic analysis firm CACI predicted the plans would lead to an 'inefficient and overlapping network' of services.

'Tesco or Sainsbury's would develop their national location strategies through a thought-out plan at head office, and the same discipline needs to be applied to the roll-out of polyclinics, ' he said.

CACI's researchers analysed areas with the greatest health problems and likelihood of serious health problems in the future.

Groups of patients were weighted to assess their cumulative potential impact on future services. This data was then used to pinpoint locations for polyclinics that allow the maximum number of patients to reach them within a 20-minute journey by public transport.

The team generated the 150 most suitable locations for a polyclinic and plotted them on a map. The map showed that 36 PCTs, mostly in rural areas, did not need a polyclinic, while others should have several.

CACI's researchers highlighted a King's Fund report from June 2008 which called for polyclinics to be developed in transport hubs to maximise access for patients.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the research confirmed what the BMA had said previously. 'It's basically "we told you so". It's exactly what we said all along. The policy of imposition results in inappropriately located and unnecessary health centres.'

The DoH defended the policy, saying the new health centres are to increase capacity.

A DoH spokesman said: 'We are committed to shifting power from Whitehall to the NHS who will take account of the views of local clinicians and patients.

'PCTs are best placed to decide the location and range of services within each centre and ensure they reflect the needs of the local population.'

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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