Campaigners against the privatisation of the NHS in north west England were celebrating last week as Preston council backed a motion that opposed plans to build a polyclinic in the city.
The motion, put forward by Preston socialist councillor Michael Lavalette, warned of the dangers that polyclinics pose to local GP surgeries by siphoning off patients and diverting their funds.
If, as many campaigners expect, local surgeries close as a result of the introduction of a polyclinic, it would mean vulnerable patients – such as the elderly, those with disabilities – could be forced to travel for miles to see a doctor.
To the alarm of fellow councillors, including those of the Labour group, Michael pointed out that a mass of private firms, including Virgin Healthcare, are queuing up to profit from the new clinics.
Following the vote in the council, local health bosses were asked to attend a public scrutiny committee. Michael says the meeting confirmed everyone’s worse suspicions.
“The NHS primary care trust has few plans for any real consultation with the public over the clinics. They admit that ‘for profit’ companies are likely to bid for the services, and they cannot guarantee that there will be no long term impact on local GP services,” he says.