Editorial: DoH must not repeat Darzi centre mistakes

When GP-led health centres were first established, many GPs feared they would become expensive white elephants

GP's investigation this week suggests these fears may be realised.

As we reveal, many of the centres have failed to register a significant number of patients, some no longer open seven days a week, or even from 8am to 8pm, and others have already closed.

GPs have long complained that some of the centres receive significantly more funding than local practices and the government must answer some serious questions about whether they represent a good use of NHS resources.

Many argue that funding for GP-led health centres would be better spent on GP practices.

GPs have demonstrated time and again that they provide a high-quality, cost-effective service, but despite this, huge sums were pumped into Darzi centres that were established in a frantic hurry, with no piloting and little evidence of their worth. Every PCT had to have one, regardless of whether it was needed or whether the PCT felt it was an appropriate use of funding.

At last month's LMCs conference, delegates called for the centres to be scrapped and the money redistributed to local primary care services.

The government must now look at this with renewed urgency. Our investigation shows many of the centres are not delivering what they were set up to achieve and where this is the case, they must be reviewed to prevent any waste of NHS resources.

Assessing the impact of change through pilots and evaluation is crucial to understanding the consequences of reforming services. In its rush to 'improve' the NHS, the previous government failed to do this and GP-led health centres appear to be an example of what can go wrong.

There is much the current government could learn from this experience as it seeks to foist its own big ideas on the health service, otherwise it could be saddled with its very own white elephant.

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