Posted by: Nicholas Swetenham | February 10, 2009

The rise of polyclinics

Yesterday, I discussed the introduction of ‘Local Hospitals’. In order to understand how they fit in to the delivery of care in future, you should also consider the new polyclinics; these are to be the future of primary care in most of the UK, if current government policy is pursued. They are large centres with many GPs (e.g. 25) as well a some specialised care, including minor surgery (draining an abscess etc. – from what I understand). In some cases, they will be integrated into the Local Hospitals. There will also be specialist nurses on these sites.

Polyclinics, as well as ‘Healthcare for London’, are the brainchild of Lord Darzi

The BMA opposes these clinics. Many of the BMA’s committees, including the General Practitioners’ Committee, the Junior Doctors’ Committee, and the Annual Representatives meeting  have passed policy expressing an opposition to the introduction of these polyclinics. The two main points of contention are:

1.  The idea of the multi-GP centres is that they will increase capacity by ensuring prompt access to a GP when your GP cannot take you. The concern is that there will be no real continuity of care if patients are forced to see a GP other than their own.

2. The management of the polyclinics is open to bidding from private companies, as well as GP partners themselves. This is an example of the ongoing semi-privatisation of NHS care, and GPs who have practiced in the NHS for the duration of their careers are concerned that any kind of profit-driven initiative might lead to financial concerns being placed before the welfare of their patients.

***Edit 17/02/2009***

I forgot to mention that the Practice in which Hamish Meldrum, Chair of BMA Council, is a member, has won a bid along with 3 other practices and the local PCT to run a new polyclinic in Bridlington as a not-for-profit. This decision did not direclty involve Hamish Meldrum, who wished to avoid a conflict of interest. The local GPs felt it was better that they be involved in the polyclinic rather than a for-profit management alternative, regardless of what they felt about polyclinics. Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter and Minister of State in the Department of Health, commented

“I am delighted by this vote of confidence from the head of the BMA in the new GP-led health centre programme.”


It is not  a vote of confidence on Hamish Meldrum’s behalf; his practice is merely doing its best with what they have to work with.

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