Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Tuesday, 26 August 2008 13:47 UK

Super surgery fears remain intense

By Graham Satchell
BBC News in Grimsby

Building new centre
New GP surgeries are already being built
Contracts are being negotiated - bids are going in. The much fought over super surgeries in England are becoming a reality. But who will run them and why are GPs still so angry?

Grimsby is one of the most deprived parts of England.

It has high levels of heart disease, obesity and teenage pregnancy - no better place then than Grimsby, you would think, for a new super surgery.

The government in Westminster wants to see 152 of them, one for every primary care trust in England. They will not be set up in the rest of the UK.

There has been a great deal of confusion about these centres.

They are not polyclinics, which are a half-way house between a GP surgery and a hospital and will only be set up in London.

What the rest of England will get are GP-led health centres. They will have a range of services, including GPs.

You will not have to register to be seen, and the key thing about them is access.

They will be open seven days a week from 8am until 8pm.

Heavy users

At a church hall in Grimsby I met a group of ladies playing Bingo.

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Why doctors in Grimsby are opposed to the 'super surgery'

They are heavy users of their local primary care services, and most say they are happy with the service they currently get.

But the idea of a new health centre with long opening hours goes down well.

"Walk in anytime? Sounds good," said one woman.

"I think it would be marvellous," said another. "Particularly at weekends because you do get poorly at the weekends. I think it would be ideal."

But not everyone is so happy. Local GPs are livid.

They say the money being spent on the new centre - around 1m - could be much better spent providing services that are actually needed.

They worry about continuity of care, and they claim existing GP services will be threatened.

'No need'

Dr Suven Sakarr has been a GP in Grimsby for more than 20 years.

"We do not need a GP-led health centre," he said.

Dr Ekta Elston
The proposals may work well in the larger cities but not in the rest of England
Dr Ekta Elston

"We are open almost all the time. Do the patients need that sort of access? Do the patients need to go anytime to a polyclinic? I don't think they do."

There is another reason GPs here are upset. Grimsby has already been building new surgeries.

Here they call them Primary Care Centres. Most have a range of services, a dentist, a pharmacy, community and mental health services.

"They have taken a one size fits all approach to it," said Dr Ekta Elston, another local GP.

"The proposals may work well in the larger cities but not in the rest of England."

Private providers

However, even thought Dr Elston is opposed to the new centre she has decided to bid to run it with other local GPs.

Why? Because she is worried that a private company may win the contract.

"It is the NHS and it doesn't feel like the NHS if you have got private companies involved," she said.

"I'm sure that patient care is top of their agenda but above that comes making money. I don't think that is right."

It is a question of regulation, not who the provider is
Rory McRae
Chilvers McCrea Healthcare

The new GP-led health centres are open to private providers. Rory McCrea is an NHS GP who runs 37 GP practices.

He owns a company called Chilvers McCrea Healthcare and he's bidding to run some of the centres.

"Traditional GP practice has failed in really delivering a lot more access that people want," said Dr McRae.

"It struggles with telephone systems, it has struggled with investment.

"I can understand people having concerns but the real issue from a taxpayers point of view is transparency.

"Whoever the provider is are they going to do a decent job and are we going to see what they are doing with their money. It is a question of regulation, not who the provider is."

GPs, of course, are private providers within the NHS. They are not salaried employees, they have contracts.

Whoever ends up running them 152 new surgeries, open all hours, are on the way.

They may change the face of general practice in England as we know it.




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