New figures from the Conservative Party suggest that polyclinics will gain an average of 400 patients from each nearby GP practice – 25% of the average practice’s list size.

These suggested figures are based on Conservative Party researchers of PCTs’ proposals for polyclinics – new buildings which will be open from 8-8 Monday-Saturday, co-locating a range of GPs, healthcare assistants, nurses, physiotherapists and in some cases, offering minor surgery and outpatient clinics.

These figures proceed from the assumption that every new polyclinic will gain an equal number of patients from every adjacent GP surgery.

Government policy has made new funding available to provide a new polyclinic in every primary care trust (PCT – the local NHS administrative and commissioning organisation). They are intended to improve access to primary care – which alongside reducing the incidence and prevalence of healthcare-associated infections, was Gordon Brown’s main policy pledge on health when he became Prime Minister.

Polyclinics have been consistently opposed by both the British Medical Association and the Conservative Party. The BMA suggest that they will damage the continuity of patient care and threaten to destabilise traditional general practices. The Conservative Party has attacked them as a top-down, centrally-imposed policy that will not take account of varying local needs in primary care.

600,000 to register with polyclinics?
The figures also suggest that if this pattern were to be reproduced nationally, then 600,000 patients would register with polyclinics.

Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley described family doctors and their patients as ”rightly worried at this onslaught. If local GP surgeries lose up to a quarter of their patients in many cases they will no longer be financially viable. That means patients will have to travel further and will lose the relationship they have with the family doctors they know and trust”.

BMA reaction
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners’ Committee, said, “‘It appears that PCTs have been forced to site new surgeries where they have available buildings rather than where they are needed. It would be much better value for money to invest in the existing practices so that they can further improve the quality and range of services they offer.

“The Government's approach has the potential to undermine many practices, leaving them little option but to reduce their staff or services which will not be in the interests of patients.”