Plans for London's first five polyclinics were announced today (10 September 2008). The integrated health centres – in Harrow, Hounslow, Lambeth, Redbridge and Waltham Forest – are expected to be up and running in the spring next year.
According to Healthcare for London, patients in the capital currently have to wait longer to see their GP than anywhere else in the country.
The polyclinics – being developed in some of the most deprived or under-doctored parts of London – are designed to tackle this, and local people will be able to book an appointment with a GP outside of working hours or at weekends.
Within a polyclinic, Londoners could see their GP, undergo a CT scan, visit a physiotherapist, receive counselling support or housing advice – all in one visit.
And proponents say the introduction of urgent care services within a polyclinic, treating minor injuries and illnesses will reduce unnecessary trips to hospital.
"Polyclinics are a London solution to a London problem," said Ruth Carnall, NHS London Chief Executive. "They will 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 first five polyclinics are only the beginning. They will show patients the real benefits of more convenient access to a GP and a broader range of services, which they currently would have to travel to hospital to receive."
The first schemes will include onsite diagnostics such as blood tests, CT scans and ultrasound, minor surgical procedures and long-term condition management. They will also provide community services, outpatient clinics, pharmacy and health information.
All these services are based in one location and are available to patients within networked GP practices.
In the future, Healthcare for London says, new developments could include polyclinics at the front door of a local hospital or a new build.
All 31 PCTs in the capital are currently developing plans for polyclinics, which will be introduced throughout London in the next five years.
Dr Tom Coffey, a Wandsworth GP and Healthcare for London clinical lead for polyclinics, said: "Polyclinics will help save lives. They are not about a building but a model of care. The shift of focus to provide services in the community will improve care for all patients, particularly disadvantaged groups and those with long-term conditions."
Are polyclinics the solution to London's primary care access problems? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"Yes, in some PCT organisations – but not where GPs are working very well together and patients and other professionals benefit" – Carl Curtis, Manor Place Surgery SE17
"Following interesting discussion with managers at the most recent Management in Practice conference in london, I can understand why some practices believe that polyclinics are or should be a London-only phenomenom. I believe that in a regionalised NHS, there will be and should be regional variations. The issue in London is that the process is being driven forward quickly, and it appears not to take in consideration the views from public consultation. Boris Johnson, as Mayor of London,
does not have direct influence on health matters but made a valuable point that polyclinics do not necessarily serve the interests of patients in the outer London boroughs. He has voiced his concerns over the closure of hospitals and the need for such clinics. At the same time, GP-led health centres are also being proposed, even though there is sufficient capacity available in many areas. Anything that improves health outcomes should be applauded, but is it possible to demonstrate that these initiatives represent patient views?" – Steve Williams, London
"Don't know but if it is a London solution to a London problem why is it being inflicted on the whole country?" – Name and address withheld
"Having worked in Tower Hamlets I appreciate the need for better access but it requires significant and sustained investment. Like walk-in centres polyclinics will also generate additional demand and while they may help to alleviate some access problems only a doubling of GP numbers will deliver real improvement" - Jeremy Pinner, Buckinghamshire
"This is very positive move. I come from finland where we have simillar clinics that are well run and serve the community, improving patients care. Any jobs going?!" - Marita E Ling, Whitechapel Walk-in Clinic, London