First Darzi centre facing closure as PCTs look to save cash

A PCT is proposing to close its Darzi centre just 18 months after it opened, in the hope its closure will save £800,000 a year.

The Alma Road primary care centre in Peterborough was opened in May 2009, following Labour’s equitable access scheme, which forced every PCT to build one GP-led health centre.  

The BMA warned that the imposition of GP-led health centres would waste NHS cash in areas where they were not needed.

The centre was originally intended to have 1,500 registered patients by April 2010 but has so far attracted only 618.

Due to a £20m funding shortfall at the PCT, NHS Peterborough says existing urgent care services 'cannot be sustained in their current form'.

Paul Whiteside, director of strategic change at NHS Peterborough, said there will be an eight-week consultation on the centre’s future.

‘We will always and continually review our services, including the unplanned care system, to ensure they meet the needs of the local population in the most cost effective, safe and efficient way,’ he said.

Dr Rupert Bankart, medical director for 3Well Medical, which runs the practice, said its walk-in clinics had been succesful but the nature of their APMS contract allowed the PCT to cancel the service easily.

'In common with many other Darzi sites, our registered list grew slowly to start with, but is now increasing at around 300 patients a month,' said Dr Bankart.

'We save a lot of money for the PCT by keeping people out of A&E, especially during evening and weekend opening.  It is therefore very difficult to make a like-for-like judgment about value for money. 

'APMS contracts like ours all have a standard clause which allows PCTs to cancel services on a 'no cause' basis whenever they like.  I’m sure we won’t be the last practice to face this kind of threat.'

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