Page last updated at 06:50 GMT, Tuesday, 3 June 2008 07:50 UK

Consultant doubt over polyclinics

Doctor generic
Polyclinics are favoured by ministers

Many NHS consultants doubt the merits of a new generation of large scale polyclinics, a survey suggests.

The British Medical Association received 1,587 responses to its poll canvassing consultant opinion on the proposed new super-surgeries.

Some 60% either disagreed or strongly disagreed they would improve patient care, and 42% were not convinced they would improve access to tretment.

More than 70% said they would destabilise hospitals and GP practices.

Consultants are concerned that further private sector involvement, particularly the development of polyclinics, is bad news for patients and the NHS
Dr Jonathan Fielden
BMA Consultants' Committee

Health Minister Lord Darzi, who is currently conducting a review of the structure of the NHS, believes large-scale surgeries are the best way forward.

They would combine standard primary care, with facilities for minor operations and on-site pharmacies.

However, critics fear they will signal the end of smaller GP practices, and bemoan potential loss of continuity of care.

Analysis by the Conservative Party concluded that 1,700 smaller practices will close.

The BMA survey also revealed discontent among consultants about greater use of the private sector to provide NHS services, with 73% of those who responded saying that the policy was detrimental to patients.

Consultants saw themselves as innovators, but 52% of respondants felt they were being prevented from implementing new ideas, with widespread discontent about limited resources.


Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the BMA's Consultants' Committee, said: "Consultants are concerned that further private sector involvement, particularly the development of polyclinics, is bad news for patients and the NHS.

This is about additional access and extra choice for everyone
Department of Health

"The profession has better ideas on how we can sustainably improve the service for patients.

"Consultants are innovators and enablers in the NHS, working over and above the call of duty for their patients.

"It is exasperating that bureaucracy and other barriers are still preventing them from doing even more for the NHS.

"The majority of senior doctors still lack very basic support, such as the right kind of IT or secretarial backing, which would release their talents and help them be even more effective for patients."

A Department of Health spokesperson said the BMA had distorted government plans.

"We are not imposing super surgeries or polyclinics or replacing existing services. In fact, we are investing record sums in existing GP practices as well as providing more GP practices in under-served areas.

"The 150 GP-led health centres, which will be established aross the country, will complement existing GP practices and serve as an extra way to see a doctor.

"This will be a valuable service for patients and families across the country, particularly if they want to see a GP when they are away from home or at times that their local GP practice is not open."

"This is about additional access and extra choice for everyone."

The survey found consultants work an average of 50.73 hours for the NHS a week, with 17% working more than 55 hours.

But 40% do not believe the method used to calculate payment for clinical work accurately reflects their workload.

'Super surgery' plans condemned
16 Feb 08 |  Health

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