A consultation in London on Health Minister Lord Darzi’s Healthcare For London plan for the introduction of polyclinics across the capital has met with public support.

Polyclinics, based on an aspect of the German health system, are new, one-stop centres offering GP and nurse-led primary care, a wide range of routine treatments and diagnostic tests and even minor operations to a population of about 50,000 patients. Polyclincis will also be expected to open longer hours – probably from 8 am to 8 pm.

Opponents
The British Medical Association has opposed the introduction of polyclinics. Conservative Leader David Cameron recently attacked the Government’s proposal to roll polyclinics out nationally, describing it as “trying to abolish the family doctor service”. London’s new mayor Boris Johnson echoed this criticism during his election campaign.

Results of the public consultation survey (mandatory in law for any proposal to change provision of services) have been seen by The Guardian newspaper, and showed 51% of people and organisations were in favour of amalgamating almost all GP practices into 150 polyclinics, with 29% against and 20% undecided. 75% of respondents to the survey wanted GP surgeries to be open for appointments in the evenings and at weekends.

The final decision on polyclinics will be made by the directors of commissioning at the primary care trusts – the NHS’s local organisational units. If they decide to go ahead with polyclinics, which are thought likely to cost about £20 million each, construction would begin in the next twelve months, with the aim to open their doors to the public in 2010. However, the recent credit crunch and general unavailablility of building land in urban settings is thought to mean that logistical difficulties lie ahead.

David Sissling, director of the NHS London reform programme, said: "We are delighted with the outcomes of the consultation." A spokesman for the Department of Health said it was likewise cheered by these findings. However, they added: "what suits London will not necessarily be the best solution elsewhere. We have repeatedly made clear that how health services are organised locally are for the local primary care trusts to decide - in consultation with their populations and health professionals."