Proposals to aggregate local health services into 'polyclinics' and 'supersurgeries' have been roundly criticised for the "one-size-fits-all" policy and for risking the public's access to local pharmacies.

The plans, reiterated by health minister Lord Darzi to the BBC on Sunday, would merge GP surgeries, pharmacies and some hospital services in the same building. Lord Darzi said: “Most patients love their GP, but I think we need to support that fantastic relationship between a patient and a doctor. Most practices now are on average four, five or six GPs practising together under a single roof. I have no doubt in the future we are going to see a critical mass of general practitioners working together rather than what we used to see in the past, which were practices with a single-handed clinician.”

But the BMA's GP Committee's deputy chairman, Dr Richard Vautrey pointed out: “This is a government plan that is potentially going to waste hundreds of millions of pounds of scarce NHS resources, creating very large health centres that many areas of the country simply don’t need or want. The government is imposing this centralised plan on to everyone whether they need it or not."

“What is actually going to happen here with these proposals is large outside multinational private companies will be setting up in direct competition, because that is the way the government is actually going about tendering for these new health centres," he added.

And Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, also criticised the move, saying the government is trying to impose a "one size fits all” policy on local communities.

More specifically, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain has urged the Department of Health to undertake mandatory impact assessments to enable local communities to understand the effects of any change on access to pharmacies. It believes the assessments are necessary because currently 99% of the population can reach a pharmacy by car, walking or public transport within 20 minutes.

RPSGB president, Hemant Patel, said: “This is not only an issue of healthcare impact, but also the social and economic impact.”

Specifically, the RPSGB wants the Government to look into transport links the impact on carers, families, and the vulnerable sections of the community as well as the training and development of healthcare staff to meet local healthcare needs. By Rob Finch