Polyclinics ‘will hit most vulnerable’
The Tory leader warned that Labour’s plans for health care could lead to the closure of one in five GP surgeries around the country.
Mr Cameron said local residents should have the final say on whether surgeries should be replaced and urged GPs to fight the changes, signing up to a petition opposing the planned reforms. Polyclinics, conceived by Lord Darzi, a health minister and consultant surgeon, will combine GP services with nursing and social care on one site.
The Government insists they will create more choice for patients and greater access to specialist care.
Opponents fear they will leave some patients with long journeys and destroy the personal relationship between patients and family doctors. In a speech to a health think-tank in London, Mr Cameron said amalgamating as many as 1,700 GP surgeries would damage the fabric of local communities.
He said: “Labour has already tried to bring about the end of the district general hospital. Now they are trying to abolish the family doctor service. Communities which have lost their post office, their local shops, their local police station, are going to lose their doctor.”
People including the elderly, those with small children and those with long-term conditions would be worst affected, Mr Cameron said.
“Those are the people least able to get to a polyclinic, and least comfortable in a large impersonal institution. They like to rely on the doctor they know, at the end of their street, often in a building not much bigger than a house,” he said. “They have a human relationship with their GP that they simply won’t have with a member of staff at a polyclinic.”
Instead of “imposing” the clinics on communities, Mr Cameron said ministers should make the changes subject to binding local consultation. He said: “Where they occur, they should occur naturally, as the voluntary combination of free agents, not as the latest structural reorganisation of the NHS.
He also urged GPs to join an independent campaign against the polyclinics plan. The petition, drawn up by the think-tank “2020health” in consultation with the Tories, calls general practice the “foundation of the NHS” and says doctors object to “being forced into polyclinics against our will”.
The petition also includes a demand for freedom to determine surgery opening hours.
“We want to work in partnership with GPs, not in conflict with them as this Government is doing,” Mr Cameron said. “So I urge GPs to sign up to this petition and ensure that the next Conservative government has the backing of the profession to modernise general practice in a way that works for the staff and patients of the NHS.”
Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, last night accused the Opposition of backing a “free-for-all” that would end a recent agreement for more surgeries to open in the evenings and at weekends.
“This is an astonishing admission by the Conservatives. They are now supporting a free-for-all on opening hours which would see an end to the evening and weekend opening which has just been secured,” he said.
“Far from diminishing primary care services we are enhancing them, but it seems that the Tories are more interested in ingratiating themselves with certain elements of the profession than they are in improving access for the public.”
Health Direct points out that every new major spin that labour dreams up tend to turn to ashes- just remember tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime…….