June 14, 2008

NHS Trust Prescribes 8-8 Centre

PLANS to provide a GP centre which would be open from 8am to 8pm every day will be examined by members of Doncaster Council at a meeting next week.

Local family doctors have attacked the scheme, known as the 8-8 service.

It has been drawn up by the borough's primary care trust in response to Government demands over service availability.

Ministers told health chiefs last December that they had to provide more accessible GP care for people who could not attend during normal surgery hours by next April.

Plans for "open all hours" health centres are now on the drawing board for all four of South Yorkshire's districts and have proved difficult to sell to the local health community.

In Doncaster, GPs have criticised plans for the new service, saying that it will eventually lead to the closure of some local surgeries as patients favour the convenience of the new 8-8 centre.

Worries have also been voiced that the centre will be run by a large multi-national company, which has no links to the community and will be looking to make a profit for its shareholders.

But bosses at the primary care trust have rejected the argument that the scheme will result in a cut in services and say it will provide "additional GP capacity within Doncaster".

At a meeting of Doncaster Council's Healthier Communities and Vulnerable People overview and scrutiny panel the PCT will tell councillors that the 8-8 centre will not affect current services.

In papers to be presented at the meeting councillors will be told: "Increasing local services and extending access are key priorities to ensure there are more opportunities for patients, especially when their own surgery is closed.

"The 8-8 health centre will be led by a group of general practitioners but as yet no decision has been made about who the provider of the new service will be.

"It is intended that this new health centre will be additional GP capacity within Doncaster, and will not be an amalgamation or grouping together of a number of GP practices."

Plans for a "walk in" GP practice in Sheffield city centre were revealed last March and a similar project is being pursued in Rotherham.

Health chiefs in Barnsley also announced a massive overhaul of front-line health services in March and said that a "walk in" health centre was high on their list of priorities for the town.

At the time some local GPs said they supported the plans with Hoyland GP Dr Richard Taylor saying they would "breathe new life" into GP services and encourage GPs to stay in the area and work.

However, the British Medical Association has repeatedly stressed its opposition to "walk in" centres and said they will "waste hundreds of millions of pounds, creating very large health centres that many areas of the country simply don't need or want."

In a recent report the BMA said: "The Government has not provided any clear evidence to support the rollout of polyclinics on a national scale.

"These large, impersonal polyclinics may mean that patients rarely see the same GP twice, which could jeopardise the continuity of care that many patients currently receive from their traditional GP."

Last weekend Health Secretary Alan Johnson dismissed the concerns of the BMA and said the association was "peddling untruths" about the effect that the large new clinics would have on existing services.

The Doncaster scheme will be considered by councillors on Wednesday.

(c) 2008 Yorkshire Post. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.