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The push for polyclinics

16th July 2008

Alyson Morley asks in the Health Service Journal if the new polyclinics mean that relationships between doctors and their patients will be replaced by "big business intrusion into healthcare"? Or are they an important addition to the future of NHS care?

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It is important not to miss two essential queries. Who should make the choices regarding polyclinics and which people should be included in the group responsible for making those choices?

MPs have stressed that that "localism" lies at the centre of government health reform. In May, Lord Darzi pledged that changes would be backed by the belief that "local needs are best met by local solutions".

However, there is a contradiction here. Darzi's review says that polyclinics should be developed in "all areas...irrespective of local variations in existing service integration, local health needs and geographical factors".

King's Fund studies have shown that polyclinics may not improve existing care services - particularly in financial terms and access to treatment. The arguments supporting polyclinics seems weak when patients may need to journey long distances to see their GP.

The term "polyclinic" has been changed to "super-surgeries, integrated health centres, community hospitals or health and well-being centres".

No matter what name is used, it is important that this remains "a local issue" and one which should meet the need of the local population.

Who should make the decisions about local healthcare? It appears that local patients are not being consulted about community healthcare.

It is not surprising that 1.2 million people have put their signature on a British Medical Association petition when they think they have no say in the way their local care is determined.

Lord Darzi has said that local health authorities will be able to look at proposals. However, they are often only allowed to do this at "too late a stage in the planning process" to make an impact.

Local groups must be given the chance to be involved at an earlier stage so they can participate in the discussion.

Lord Darzi's review could offer a real chance for positive local change and participation, or it could be another "top-down initiative that disregards local needs".

 

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