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Blog: Don't forget GPs in the rush for 'polyclinics'

Primary care blogger Lynn Young on Gordon Brown's obsession with healthcare access and the enduring value of general practice

Access, access, access. It seems Prime Minister Brown is obsessed with improving access to healthcare services. We the public must enjoy swift access to the healthcare provider of our choice, when we need it and when we want it.

This conversation then leads swiftly on to the topic of polyclinics. Professor Ara Darzi wants them and the BMA does not, their argument being that for the main part traditional general practice serves the nation well and people love the personal relationships they have with their GP.

And the BMA has a point, even with all its imperfections general practice continues to be the jewel in the NHS crown - every other nation in the world wants it. Yes readers and bloggers, when it comes to international health meetings views are often expressed by our overseas friends that even a part of our general practice system would bring massive improvements to their own healthcare provision.

General practice costs a lot of money, but it saves money too. Well respected research has demonstrated that countries with well-developed primary care enjoy high health status and save on the phenomenal costs of secondary care. So good general practice makes good economic and health sense.

But what does all this have to do with the proposed introduction of polyclinics? They are deemed to be wonderful things as they enable patients to visit fancy premises, be X-rayed, investigated and tested on the spot, and then patients can walk straight into another room where a medical specialist will be found.

It is beginning to sound attractive. But wait a moment, as we also need to acknowledge the value of a wonderful GP. The wonderful GP is able to safely keep most patients away from umpteen specialists and the danger of hospitals. The area of complex diagnoses is the unique selling point (USP) of the worthy GP and his/her ability to sort out most of our medical problems without the need to seek the help of a specialist nurse or doctor equals efficient, cost-effective and high-quality personalised care.

So, while all is not perfect in the world of general practice, I am a little bit in love with the advanced, generic, all-singing and all-dancing GPs and advanced nursing practitioners.

For the main part, they are able to look after me, Lynn Young, rather then simply my ailment or number of long-term conditions at the time of consultation. General practice premises are not the Ritz Hotel, but they are less chaotic then the hospital environment and it is far easier to gain access to it then four years ago.

So my call is to bring in the odd polyclinic where general practice is poorly developed, but lets do more to support what continues to be the jewel in the crown of the NHS.


Readers' comments (3)

  • I agree entirely . As a 'Generalist Practice Nurse' in a very small Practice, I give holistic care to the whole family.

    I know all my 'regular' patients with Chronic Diseases and their families and friends who come along with them to consultations. I see the babies for their vaccinations, their Mothers for their family planning and Women's Health Issues, their Grandmothers for their 'other' Women's Health problems. The teenagers for family planning or vaccination needs for travel also, their Fathers and Grandfathers with their Health Promotion needs etc. The whole families health needs are accounted for.

    This continuity of care and trust would be lost in a Polyclinic.

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  • As a GP that's probably the nicest thing I've read about general practice in the past 10 years.
    If only the govrnment could be as uplifting then maybe GPs might feel more valued and amenable to helping the government with its aims.

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  • I was a GP Nurse prescriber for 5 years,but could only get 20 hours so had to leave
    Polyclinics should keep expanding and gathering expertise to reduce unecessary stress to patients/ families. We are trained to believe in Community, but staff like myself with many years experience are required, to provide excellent service ;but we can't get the hours.

    Margaret Brandreth- Jones MA Community/ Health Care Ethics

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