Scrutiny Committee Examines London's Health

Are Polyclinics the way forward or will they cost too much?

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What should the NHS look like in 10 years? That’s the question being put to councillors from Ealing and across London who are coming together to look at new proposals for the future of the city’s health services.

Councillors from every London borough are set to take part in the biggest ever joint overview and scrutiny committee to examine proposals from the capital’s primary care trusts, which set out how they want to change over the next 10 years to meet future healthcare needs.

The plans, which are set out in ‘Healthcare for London – Consulting the Capital’, could mean a new look for local hospitals and the creation of polyclinics, which will allow people to see a range of different health care specialists under one roof.

However, health care professionals have commented that the creation of polyclinics where large numbers of GPs and other health care professionals work will inevitably lead to the closure of some local GP surgeries. This would mean that patients may to travel further to see a doctor. There is also the possibility that the service would become less personal.

There could also be a shift of resources from hospitals to polyclinics which could decrease the money available in the hospitals to maintain them at their current standards. There is a danger of duplication of resources on two sites - hospital and polyclinic - leading to closure of one or the other. It may be better to consider a 'virtual' polyclinic model where groups of practices join together to provide the same services that would have been offered in one building (like physiotherapy, osteopathy and minor surgery, ante-natal care, counselling and some services that are currently only occurring in hospitals.)

Investing large sums of money in the development of completely new polyclinics may not be the best use of precious NHS resources. Some good structures already exist in the NHS and it would be a shame to undermine them.

Over the next three months the Committee will hear from a wide range of national and local organisations and individuals, to help it come up with a set of recommendations to present to NHS bosses.

Ealing’s representative on the Committee, Councillor Mark Reen, said: “The proposals have potential implications for healthcare in London. Ealing’s participation in the London-wide scrutiny committee is important as it allows Ealing the opportunity to have its views heard at the beginning of the process.  I hope local residents will contact me to let me know what they think about the plans.”

The Committee, which includes councillors from the counties surrounding London, will also examine the way the NHS is consulting the public on the proposals.

The next meeting of the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be on 18 January 2008 in the City of London Guildhall, EC2P 2EJ. All meetings are open to the public and meeting papers can be viewed and downloaded from Ealing Council’s website.  To submit views contact Nigel Spalding, Scrutiny Review Officer on 020 8825 8182 or email



January 17, 2008