Conservative leader David Cameron MP has joined the recent debate about the Government’s proposal to introduce polyclinics in primary care.

Speaking at the Kings Fund, Mr Cameron warned that if Government proposals for 150 ‘polyclinics’ (new one-stop centres offering GP and nurse-led primary care, a wide range of diagnostic tests and even minor operations) materialise, Conservative estimates suggest that up to 1,700 GP practices – 20% of the UK’s total - might close.

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Mr Cameron told delegates: “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 and their local police station, are now going to lose their doctor. Of course there are circumstances where GPs coming together in larger practices or larger premises, and offering new services, are entirely welcome. What I object to is the government's policy of imposing polyclinics on local communities without public support and in the face of opposition from doctors."

Polyclinics have attracted criticism from the GP committee of the British Medical Association. However, no polyclinics have yet been introduced in the NHS. Mr Cameron did not make clear the source of his estimated figures.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said that the remarks showed Mr Cameron "misleading the public", and that the Conservatives were opponents of NHS investment. Mr Johnson added: "we are opening 150 new GP-run health centres, open from 0800 to 2000, seven days a week. Because this programme is all paid for with new money, none of it will lead to a reduction in traditional GP services."

The idea of polyclinics, which are common in Germany, first took UK policy form in surgeon and Health Minister Lord Ara Darzi’s 2007 review of NHS services in London. In recent weeks, the NHS Confederation has called for a “more rational debate” about polyclinics with its report Ideas From Darzi: Polyclinics, and the NHS Alliance has suggested in its report In Sickness And In Health that polyclinics might in some areas be introduced as ‘virtual’ integrated care organisations.