Labour plans for GP shakeup must avoid mistakes of the past

Proposals put forward by the Labour Party to develop a national network of ‘neighbourhood health centers’- should they win the next election, have raised big questions about how the idea would work and what it might cost

Impressed by the Australian model of polyclinics, Labour health spokesman Wes Streeting has announced his intention to replicate it, seeing them as a way to reduce pressure on A&E, combine services locally, and ease costs.

Is this a new idea? 

Labour has not filled in the detail around this policy, but expanding community healthcare to find benefits in diagnosing and managing health problems is not a new idea.

It was the last Labour government that set about installing a network of 150 GP-led walk-in health centres after a report by Lord Darzi. In similar tones, they were sold to the public as “one-stop shops” offering extended opening. The first were launched in 2009, only for the Labour administration to abandon the policy in 2011 following a Department of Health review.

They were unpopular with patients, duplicated existing services, and created deficits –  branded by GP leaders as a ‘huge waste of money”.

Like Darzi, the Streeting plan proposes multidisciplinary centres, handling urgent care but not emergencies – this time building one centre in each of the 42 commissioning areas in England.

Full article in The Lowdown, 1 March 2024