A new polyclinic in Harrow has attracted more than 1,000 people in its first four weeks, according to Healthcare for London.
Located in one of Harrow's most deprived wards, the Alexandra Avenue clinic in west London is among the capital's first polyclinics. The first seven polyclinics opened their doors across London in April 2009.
All 31 of London's PCTs are developing plans for local polyclinics to be introduced in every borough over the next five years.
At the official opening of the polyclinic on Monday (22 June 2009), Health Minister Lord Darzi (pictured, with Dr Gillian Schiller (centre), Chairman of Harrow PCT, and Dr Sarah Crowther, CEO of Harrow PCT) described the local response to the polyclinic as "overwhelming".
He said: "Polyclinics such as this one in Harrow are helping tackle two of the biggest problems in the capital: namely patients finding it difficult to get a GP appointment and people turning up at A&E when they should be seeing their family doctor."
The Alexandra Avenue centre transformed its services to qualify as a polyclinic. It now offers bookable GP appointments and a walk-in service between 8am–8pm, seven days a week. More than 300 people visited the polyclinic on weekends or bank holidays during the clinic's first month of operation.
The polyclinic offers a host of new services including minor surgery, blood tests and a prescription drop-off and medication review service. New services to help residents live healthily, including weight management and stop-smoking services, have also been introduced.
Dr David Lloyd, a GP from the Ridgeway Surgery, which provides services at the Alexandra Avenue polyclinic said: "We thought we knew what our patients wanted and always tried to make sure we were accessible.
"However, the one comment we hear from people in the polyclinic over and over again is how much better it is to be able to see a GP or a nurse at a time that suits them and their hectic lives rather than the health service."
Are polyclinics the way forward for general practice? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"How come when the government spends millions on living healthy (health promotion, self-caring etc) we need to be continually opening these centres as well as new HC. Surely if all this stategy is paying off (which it clearly isn't) we should by now be reducing the number of clinics opening? If my experience is anything to go by, the number of visits could be reduced enormously if people used a little common sense. The more centres are opened the more hours are offered will be filled usually by the worried well. This government has created a system where people continually refuse to take responsibility for their own health" – Marie, Lancs
"How come so few? In the same period my single-handed GMS GP practice in Southampton saw 1,236 – GP saw 772, rest seen by two part-time practice nurses – but that was only weekdays 8am-6.30pm plus 1.5 hrs extended hours. We've been seeing this number and often more – for last 12 years. Wonder when we'll ever get same nonsense from government. We cost very little – Darzi centres a fortune – when will folk ever learn GPs are the bread and butter service. Was same with walk-in centres. Good thing is we'll be around when all these new things have been and gone. Shame we've been given such a kicking in GP land – when we started we had our own health visitor in building – haven't seen one for last four years. Primary healthcare "team"? Yeah, right. Me and my two part-time nurses? Hardly a team anymore" – Dr Nigel Dickson, Southampton
"Not when there is insufficient parking , and the staff at Raynes Lane already deprive local residents of parking near to their home as they persistantly park outside residents' homes in their service road; and now with added burden of extra patients. Parking is beyond a joke" – Anthony Mote, Alexandra Avenue. Raynes Lane
"It depends where they are. In areas where there are perfectly good GP services that can accommodate the needs of the local population, the money could be better spent on other things. The one-size-fits-all approach stifles innovation and encourages a concentration of effort and resources in the wrong direction. Many improvements to current services could have been made with the available money. This blanket imposition is about control and breaking the GPs' monopoly on primary care" – Name and address withheld
"More spin! Of course Darzi is going to blow his own trumpet. What would make good reading is anonymised detailed statistics of what the patients attended for, or was it just curiosity at a new toy being available to play with?" – Malcolm Wallace, West Midlands