Health minister Lord Darzi says that GP surgeries will “absolutely not” close under threats from new polyclinics. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Darzi, whose NHS next stages review High-quality care for all was published last Monday, emphasised the “additionality” of the new GP-led health centres.

He told the programme that ‘polyclinics’, which he had proposed in his original 2007 Healthcare For London review, had been misunderstood and would not be imposed nationally. The original concept of polyclinics was of larger buildings staffed by a range of GPs, practice and community nurses that would offer a range of diagnostic scans and tests, outpatient appointments and possibly even minor day surgery.

The original outline of Lord Darzi’s interim proposals had implied that every one of the country’s 150 primary care trusts (PCTs – the local NHS administrative and commissioning units). Every PCT in London has already agreed to take a polyclinic.

But Darzi emphasised that “a hundred and fifty new health centres across the country” were being funded with “additional money. This is not replacing current practices”. His recently published Review also emphasises that there will be pilots of 15 ‘integrated care organisations’ – virtual polyclinics, multi-professional groups based around existing GP surtgeries, but providing additional mamgement and diagnostic resources to achieve the same as a polyclinic, with greater emphasis on integrating health and social care services and preventing ill-health.

BMA and Conservative criticisms “simply wrong”
Darzi agreed with his interviewer’s leading suggestion that the allegations about hundreds of GP suregery closures were “simply wrong”. The Conservatives released figures indicating that polyclinics would threaten 1,700 GP practices with closures.

However, when asked about these figures at the recent NHS Confederation conference in Manchester, Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley admitted that his figures were extrapolated from studies of only one-third of PCTs, and that the DH had also revised the likely number of GPs working in each new ‘polyclinic’ down from 25 to 5.