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Doctors ready to fight the rise of polyclinics

PUBLISHED: 12:51 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:02 07 September 2010

DOCTORS in Camden have backed a poster campaign fighting government plans to centralise healthcare. The posters were designed by Camden Local Medical Committee to raise awareness among patients of the threat posed to GP surgeries by polyclinic

Tan Parsons

DOCTORS in Camden have backed a poster campaign fighting government plans to centralise healthcare.

The posters were designed by Camden Local Medical Committee to raise awareness among patients of the threat posed to GP surgeries by polyclinics.

Bearing the slogan 'Keep my NHS GP local', the banners can now be found on noticeboards in surgeries across Hampstead and Highgate.

Dr Claire Chalmers-Watson, who is a partner at the Parliament Hill Surgery in Hampstead, had the poster put up last week.

She is worried that polyclinics are part of a move to introduce market forces to the NHS and believes they could erode the personal link between patients and doctors.

"There's quite a lot of fear at the moment that patients are going to meet a corporate beast in polyclinics that's going to commodify them and that what is good about GP services is going to be lost.

"I wouldn't say that I would never work in a polyclinic - that would be stupid. But where staff at a polyclinic might look at someone and say 'here is a patient who needs an MRI scan', staff at a GP surgery would say this is Mrs Miggins whose husband died last year," she said.

"I trained at a practice where we had 12,000 patients and I deliberately chose to become a partner at a very small practice with 4,500 patients.

"I know nearly all my patients who come in - it's quite wholesome and it feels terribly human and I like that.

"I feel that value is at the heart of being a GP. The move from that towards polyclinics is part of a general commodification of healthcare."

In February the Healthcare for London consultation set out a blueprint for a major overhaul of the capital's healthcare system which could mean as many as five polyclinics would be created in Camden.

These would be large buildings where GPs, opticians, dentists and hearing aid services would all be brought together under one roof.

Two would probably be based at the Royal Free Hospital and University College London Hospital, and critics argue the changes would make GPs less accessible and would pave the way for the privatisation of the NHS.

The results of the consultation are expected in June and critics fear a move towards polyclinics could lead to the closure of up to three-quarters of GP surgeries.

Dr Stephen Amiel, who is chairman of Camden LMC, said the poster campaign is essential to educate patients about the future of healthcare services.

"Patients may not be aware of the potential threats hanging over modern general practice," he said.

"They may stand to lose their local surgery, in favour of the implementation of big impersonal clinics further away from people's homes if they don't take action.

"We are particularly concerned that some of these clinics may be sited in hospital buildings instead of in the community, and that some may be taken over and run for profit by large private corporations."

Last month five Hampstead GPs spoke to Tory leader David Cameron about their concerns over how the government is looking to build polyclinics.

If health minister Lord Darzi's plans are given the green light later in the year, polyclinics will become a reality in Camden and elsewhere.

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk


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