MP's doctor surgery closure fears

PATIENTS in Essex could be forced to travel three times as far to see a doctor if the Government pushes ahead with plans for new super health clinics, an MP warned last night.

Annie Davidson

PATIENTS in Essex could be forced to travel three times as far to see a doctor if the Government pushes ahead with plans for new super health clinics, an MP warned last night.

Bernard Jenkin said local people would “lose out big time” if the changes - which could potentially lead to the closure of 1,700 GP surgeries across the country - went ahead.

The Conservative MP for North Essex vowed to fight the plans which he feared could lead to the closure of the Riverside Health Centre in his constituency town of Manningtree.

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The health clinics - known as polyclincs - would offer a range of services including outpatient services such as podiatry, dental care, district nurses and children's services.

The aim is for easily accessible GPs so people can be seen outside normal surgery hours and at weekends - even if they are registered with another doctor.

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The Department of Health said last night that the plans involved polyclinics in the London area as well as 150 GP-led health centres across the rest of the country which would “complement” GP practices rather than replacing existing services.

Mr Jenkin said the plan was “ridiculous” and that impact on current doctors' surgeries was “inevitable.”

“It means that in the future there will be fewer surgeries in rural areas,” he said. “The Government say it is going to have polyclinics but then denies there will be any consequences to them. It just does not add up.

“They cannot say they will keep investing in doctors' surgeries but also have polyclinics, where will the money come from?”

Figures released by the Government's Department for Communities and Local Government have been analysed by Conservative party researchers who have estimated the distance patients travel to their doctor could be trebled.

In Tendring the average distance could increase from 1.1 miles to 3.6, with Colchester's increasing from one mile to 3.5, they said.

Mr Jenkin added: “Ours is a rural county; we do not have the infrastructure in place to allow residents without their own car to easily travel extra distances for medical care.

“As with the Government's continuing campaign to close down our local post offices, the elderly, the vulnerable and those with young families will be the most affected by these ill-advised, badly thought out plans.”

The Department of Health spokesman said the Government was “investing record sums in existing GP practices as well as providing more GP practices in under-served areas.”

She added: “The 150 GP led health centres, which will be established across the country, will complement existing GP practices and serve as an extra way to see a doctor.

“This will be a valuable service for patients and families across the country, particularly if they want to see a GP when they are away from home or at times that their local GP practice is not open.Top of Form

““We have consistently said that what works for London will not necessarily work for other parts of the country. It is not and never has been Government policy to require PCTs or GPs to replicate the proposed London polyclinic model up and down the country.”

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