Polyclinic threat to GP surgeries

Liz Coates THOUSANDS of people across the borough are estimated to have signed petitions against plans that may threaten popular doctors' surgeries as part of an overhaul of the NHS.

Liz Coates

THOUSANDS of people across the borough are estimated to have signed petitions against plans that may threaten popular doctors' surgeries as part of an overhaul of the NHS.

Pages of signatures are being sent off today to the British Medical Association (BMA)who in turn will present them to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday.

The campaign focuses on the government's 150 polyclinics - one of which is lined up for Great Yarmouth - which are designed to offer a range of minor procedures and check ups from 8am to 8pm.

A specific location has not been targeted but some practice managers say the objectives of polyclinics could be achieved by investing in existing practices and that a possible drain away of patients to the new hubs could jeopardize friendly family surgeries where GPs know the names of your children and where you last went on holiday.

Barbara Tildesley, a patient at Central Surgery in Gorleston which is supporting the BMA campaign said she was alarmed by the proposals to create a “doctors' supermarket” which could threaten the traditional surgery. “They are such a wonderful band of doctors and I consider it an excellent surgery. The fact of being known gives you a tremendous amount of confidence,” she said.

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Park Surgery in Yarmouth and Gorleston's central surgery are among those supporting the campaign.

Dawn Jermany, practice manager at Central Surgery, which has collected 20 pages of signatures in a couple of weeks, said it was a nationwide issue and that ultimately it was up to patients whether or not they wanted to re-register at the polyclinic, or Darzi centres as they are known after their creator Lord Darzi.

But a spokesman for the Primary Care Trust which is proposing the Yarmouth walk-in health centre stressed it was an extra resource that was not replacing anything.

The centre, described by some as “mini hospitals” will be able to offer a range of services that could include minor operations, ultrasounds, smear tests and immunisations for children.

Arrangements and firm plans for the polyclinic have to be in place by December 31.

Hard-hitting posters, patient information leaflets and stickers were sent to all GP surgeries as part of the BMA's campaign to promote and defend NHS general practice.

They say family doctors are concerned about plans for polyclinics, many of which may be run by commercial providers on short term contracts. Some surgeries may have to reduce services for patients while others could be forced to close.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GP's committee said: “Government plans which will encourage more commercial provision of NHS primary care may put at risk the type of NHS general practice so valued by patients. Family doctors are deeply worried that GP surgeries will go the same way as local branches of banks, post offices and NHS dentists which have disappeared in many parts of the country.”

Diane Collier, head of corporate business at Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT, said: “When the PCT board met in public in February, we agreed that this additional health centre for Great Yarmouth and Waveney would be located in Great Yarmouth because that is the area of greatest need.”

“It will be open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, will provide pre-bookable appointments and walk-in services, and care for registered and non-registered patients.

“This will be an additional facility, providing new capacity and bringing extra GPs, nurses and support staff to the Great Yarmouth area, and will not be replacing any existing services.”

Already more than 100 GP practises have been earmarked for closure to make way for polyclinics in London, the first part of the country to implement the plans.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Write to Letters at the Mercury, 169 King Street, Great Yarmouth NR30 2PA or email anne.edwards@archant.co.uk