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News / 10 October, 2008

GP surgeries – what’s happening

“Any change in premises will not involve somebody having to lose their GP”

Since the Hackney Citizen reported on the restructuring of primary health care delivery in its Summer 2008 issue, new details have come to light on plans for change.

The Hackney and City Primary Care Trust has announced that borough’s first polyclinic-style heath care resource centre is set to open in the spring of 2010 at the old Hackney Hospital in Homerton.

An application for planning permission for the project is now being considered by the council. If all goes well, work on refurbishing the site will begin next spring.

A second centre will follow on the St Leonard’s Hospital site in Hoxton, due to open in the autumn of 2011. Similar centres in the north-east and north-west corners of the borough are planned, though sites for these facilities have yet to be chosen.

Several GP surgeries will be relocated to the new centres, and some surgeries are to be moved to more modern buildings elsewhere in the borough.

In other cases, plans for surgery moves have been put on hold. Some practices where relocations had been suggested, such as the Barrett’s Grove surgery in Stoke Newington and the Trowbridge Surgery in Hackney Wick, are to stay put for the foreseeable future.

Many welcome the prospect of the additional services that the resource centres will provide, but there is still some  disquiet and uncertainty about the implications of the proposals for doctor-patient relationships and the distance people have to travel to see their GP.

Lin Lahm, a local resident and member of several pensioners’ and patient consultation groups complains that she has been unable to find out what the plans will mean ‘on the ground’ for people like her: “people don’t know for sure what is going to happen and we haven’t been able to find out for sure”.

She says many patients are panicked at the prospect of their GP moving, due to the perceived threat to continuity of care.

Some of these fears may be unfounded. Unlike in some parts of London where the ‘polyclinic’ model is being introduced from next spring, patients in Hackney will not have to change doctor as a result of the physical relocation of practices, as the practices themselves will retain their identities. Steve Gilvin, Director of Primary Care Commissioning at the City and Hackney Primary Care Trust, says “I can absolutely say that any change in premises will not involve somebody having to lose their GP”.

The commonly held belief that patients will have to travel further to see their doctor also appears to be largely inaccurate. The Primary Care Trust estimates that patients will be on average only about a third of a mile from their doctor under the new plans.

Correction: in our Summer 2008 article, ‘GP surgeries in shake-up’ we incorrectly attributed a survey carried out by the Londonwide Local Medical Committees to the British Medical Association.

The findings of this survey, carried in May, can be accessed at: http://www.lmc.org.uk/uploads/files/news/2008/llmcspatientsurveymay2008nel.pdf

/ 10 October, 2008

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