Editorial: Keep new centres for where they are needed

Last week, health secretary Alan Johnson opened the Hillside Bridge Healthcare Centre in Bradford. The DoH could not have found a better place to become England's first GP-led health centre.

It pushes all the buttons: the area has a significant shortage of GPs; high levels of unemployment, long-term conditions and teenage pregnancy; and one of the country's worst rates of low birth weight. If there was ever an area that would benefit from a shiny new Darzi centre, this was it.

What's more, the health centre is run by a GP-backed social enterprise, so it was the perfect opportunity for ministers to promote two key policies.

It is impossible to object to Hillside Bridge. This is an area in desperate need of greater investment in primary care. Many residents are not registered with a GP, so the walk-in aspect, alongside extra capacity for registered patients, makes total sense.

Everyone backs this centre, the LMC, the PCT, other GPs, the local community. It is natural that the DoH should choose such an example for Mr Johnson to cut the ribbon on his flagship policy.

There are other deprived areas in England which, like parts of Bradford, have historically suffered from poor access to GPs. Mostly these are urban areas and many would probably benefit from a Darzi centre. But that is no reason for the government to introduce these centres to every PCT.

Most people are happy with the access to their practice. They don't want or need a walk-in clinic that they can attend seven days a week, but where they have to see a different doctor each time they visit. Or, in the case of rural areas, have to travel miles to reach.

Patients value the relationship they have with their own practice and their own GP. Continuity of care, not '8 til 8' access, is what is important to most of them.

The DoH is right to invest more money in primary care in England but wrong to be so prescriptive about how it is spent. GP-led health centres may work for some areas, but a one-size-fits-all approach is not the way to improve the health of the nation.

More opinion online

Read more opinion from the GP editorial team in the editor's blog at www.healthcarerepublic.com/blogs. This is what the team had to say this week

"GPC wants 4 per cent pay rise The government has to be challenged to provide adequate funding for primary care. Less money going into general practice means less money for patient care and less money for all staff working in practices."

"Nurses should not call patients 'dear' There are some parts of the UK where you can't pop out for a pint of milk without someone referring to you as 'love' or 'dearie'. Surely such terms of endearment make the world a rosier, lovelier, less gloomy place?"

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