London's first polyclinic will 'poach other GPs' patients'

Converted pub at centre of 'hub and spoke' practices.

London's first polyclinic will force nearby practices to fight to hang on to their patients, the local PCT professional executive committee (PEC) chairman has admitted.

Health minister Lord Darzi opened the new Loxford Polyclinic - a converted pub in Ilford, east London - last week. It will act as a 'hub', providing services to four nearby 'spoke' practices, in a combined 'polysystem' serving 50,000 patients.

The new centre will house two existing practices, with a combined list of 12,000. But the practices - Henley Road and John Telford Clinic - hope to increase this to 20,000 by the end of the third year.

Dr Richard Price, NHS Redbridge's PEC chairman, said that other practices could lose patients to the new polyclinic.

'If you're a patient of a doctor based in a terraced house, where there isn't a nurse, you may well think: "I'm going to register here." It's a fact you can't get away from. We have to be transparent about mitigating it.'

He added that the PCT wanted to 'cooperate on ways of driving up the quality of the spokes as well as the hub'.

The polyclinic includes 59 consulting rooms, as well as three minor surgery rooms. It will provide a range of services including pharmacy, dentistry, X-rays and diagnostics.

Its opening follows an 18-month process of roadshows and consultation intended to get local practices on board. 'Originally they were saying "it won't work, it's change for change's sake",' said Dr Price. 'But slowly those attitudes changed, and GPs began to realise that no change is not an option.'

Christine Anderson, a member of the community panel at NHS Redbridge said that, while local GP services were good, patients would welcome the convenience of a single centre. 'My daughter won't have to take a half day to see her GP,' she said.

She said that many local doctors had been wary of plans to develop polyclinics. 'My GP felt threatened,' she said. 'But I have tried to reassure him.'

The new centre will open to the public in June.

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