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Government super-surgery plan could be 'bad for patients'

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Poor implementation of the government’s ‘polyclinic’ plan could create significant risks for patient care, warns a health think-tank.

Polyclinics are the super-surgery model championed by junior health minster Lord Darzi, who is currently leading the NHS Next Stage Review, the latest set of health service reforms due to be published at the end of this month.

The King’s Fund examined existing facilities similar to the polyclinic model built in England using the NHS Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT). Its report, published this week, said a major centralisation of GP services into polyclinics could make it more difficult for patients to visit their GP, especially those living in rural areas.

Moving specialist services from acute settings into the clinics could also prove more expensive and less efficient for the health service than the current model of service provision. They may also present ‘significant workforce challenges’, the report said.

‘Polyclinics may be the right answer in some areas, they will not be right for others. That should be a matter to be decided locally on a case-by-case basis using the best clinical evidence available together with a full assessment of the costs and the impact on patient access,’ said King’s Fund chief executive Niall Dickson.

The British Medical Association has already dubbed proposals to introduce polyclinics as ‘unproven, crude and expensive’.

Nigel Edwards, policy director of the NHS Confederation, added: 'While polyclinics could delver significant benefits for patients it is crucial that a "one size fits all" model is not imposed on a national level. Careful planning will be key to success.'

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