Cameron listens to GPs’ fears of polyclinics

DOCTORS from Hampstead met with David Cameron this week to raise concerns over the future of NHS healthcare

Tan Parsons

DOCTORS from Hampstead met with David Cameron this week to raise concerns over the future of NHS healthcare.

The group of five doctors told Mr Cameron on Monday that GP surgeries across Camden would be forced to close if the government's plans to create polyclinics are given the to go-ahead.

They spoke to the Tory leader after a press conference where he criticised health minister Lord Darzi's reform agenda.

Mr Cameron said that while he did not object to polyclinics in principle, their systematic introduction by Lord Darzi would disadvantage the most vulnerable patients, including the elderly, and could lead to the closure of three quarters of London's GP surgeries.

Last month the Healthcare for London consultation set out a blueprint for a major overhaul of the capital's healthcare system, which could see up to five polyclinics created in Camden. These would be large buildings where GPs, opticians, dentists, and other services would all be brought under one roof.

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Two would be based at the Royal Free and UCLH hospitals, but critics argue the changes would make GPs less accessible and would pave the way for the privatisation of the NHS.

In his speech Mr Cameron criticised the government's 'top-down' approach to health reform, calling for doctors to have a greater say in the process and to be given powers to commission services.

"Communities that have lost their police stations, court houses and post offices are now going to lose their doctors," he said.

Speaking to Mr Cameron after the conference, Caz Sayer who is a doctor at the Adelaide Medical Centre, said: "It's inevitable that GP surgeries across Camden will be closed as a consequence if these polyclinics are set up."

She said practices will lose vital funding if a significant portion of patients are transferred to polyclinics, and explained some of the developments her practice has been involved in.

"We collected data between the services and developed a community diabetic service and musculoskeletal services. They have been very successful and are being piloted across the whole of Camden," she said.

John Horton, a doctor at Park End Surgery, said: "Being independent and small has allowed us to move quickly and be efficient, but this government seems to want total control. We don't need to sweep away GP practices."

Mr Cameron said: "The rest of the world looks at GP services in our country and says 'What a good idea' and yet here we are in this situation.

"What you are doing here is very inventive and creative and we need to push these ideas forward. We will defeat the Darzi top-down plan but only if we can demonstrate the success of these examples."

Speaking after the meeting at the King's Fund in Cavendish Square, Marylebone, Stephen Graham, a doctor at the Parliament Hill Surgery, said: "Someone employed as part of a polyclinic - as a drone - will feel very demoralised.

"I know that I'm valued by my patients as their GP. If someone bangs their head then they don't care who they see, but when patients have an ongoing illness they want to see someone they know and trust and have built a relationship with."

Polyclinics explained

Polyclinics bring GPs under the same roof as other services, including those usually carried out in hospitals - such as minor surgery and diabetes treatment.

The government claims the clinics will improve access to care and convenience for patients and is planning as many as five in Camden - including one at the Royal Free Hospital and another at UCLH.

On June 12 a joint committee of London's primary care trusts will meet in public to agree on the proposals for polyclinics.

The meeting, at 3pm, is in the Sofitel Hotel in Westminster. For information you can email