A million patients battle against polyclinics

More than one million patients have signed a petition protesting against plans to close hundreds of GP practices to make way for polyclinics.

The signatures, collected by the British Medical Association (BMA) in just three weeks as part of its “Support Your Surgery” campaign, was presented to Gordon Brown at Downing Street.

The BMA is concerned that the new clinics will destroy the relationship between patients and their family doctor

The labour government cannot afford to ignore the level of patient concern over polyclinics, which have been dubbed “supersurgeries”, doctors’ leaders will say.

Ministers insist that the centres, designed to house up to 25 GPs under one roof along with other services such as minor surgery, will provide a better service for patients.

But the BMA claims they will destroy the relationship between patients and their family doctor and lead to more private companies running surgeries.

Analysis by the Tories suggests that 1,700 of the 8,700 GP practices in England could have to shut under the plans.

Around 100 GP practices in just eight PCTs in London, the first part of the country to roll out the policy, have already been earmarked for closure to make way for polyclinics.

Doctors will protest against the plans at the BMA’s Local Medical Committees annual conference today, entitled “standing up for General Practice”.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee, will tell GPs at the meeting that the petition “will deliver a stark message to the Prime Minister” about the true level of patient concern.

Dr Buckman will also say: “My message to Gordon Brown is this: Whatever you think of GPs, take note of what your electorate thinks. Work with us to improve the service, not against us, and ignore at your peril the wishes of the most important people in the NHS – the patients.”

He will tell GPs : “If the government won’t listen to you, their doctors, then surely it will listen to the 1.2 million men and women who call for a halt to the plans to promote the use of commercial companies in general practice.

“Voters don’t want funding to move from GP practices to commercial companies who are accountable primarily to shareholders rather than patients. They want to be treated as patients, not customers.”

The petition calls on ministers to “continue to support our existing NHS GP surgeries” and “improve services to patients by further investment in existing GP surgeries”.

But Neil Bentley, from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), accused doctors’ leaders of “ostrich-like denial” and said that the plans would extend opening hours and increase the range of services offered to patients.


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