Thursday, 4 February 2010

Poly Politics

I've been racking my brain for a word that starts with 'poly' and which defines something positive. It's surprisingly hard; polymyalgia, polycystic, polyarthritis, polyuria, polyester, polytechnic, polygamy, polyp... polyclinic...?

Now this is a tricky one. I understand the concept of polyclinics to some degree. To be able to pitch up at a spangly new medical centre, see a doctor, dentist, physiotherapist and nutritionist in quick succession, possibly even get an X ray thrown in for good measure, well, it sounds appealing. A one stop shop for all your medical needs, free of charge and courtesy of the NHS. It definitely has its attractions and it could work brilliantly for a young, largely healthy population - a student health centre perhaps, or something for London's working masses.

But what of those who don't want or aren't able to travel to a large centre like this? Those who have multiple problems, or a chronic illness and would much rather see the same doctor on each visit? Those who believe that having some sort of a relationship with their GP is important?

What of the doctors? All GP's will remember what it feels like to start in a new practice. How much harder it is when everyone is a 'new patient', when you know little of a person's past medical history, their social circumstances or what's really important to them.

This week one of our patients, whilst filling out yet another survey (as Dr Grumble notes, happiness must be measured in the NHS), admitted that it was because he liked his doctor and the practice so much that he had decided not to move out of London. I suppose it's only right to add that his doctor is not me but a collegue, but all the same, I found it touching. I also found it very sad - the way things are heading, this kind of relationship may soon be a thing of the past.

So no matter what advantages I'm told they'll bring; how they'll rescue overcrowded A&E departments and make GP's more accessible than ever before, I just can't make myself feel positively about polyclinics. Apart from anything else, the name just doesn't bode well...


  1. Just the cost of building them is going to be a nightmare.

    My local GP practises in a building with another GP practice, some physios, some midwives and some sort of baby clinic. The building is less than fifteen years old. The PCT is going to tear it down and move the doctors somewhere else for up to two years whilst they rebuild everything. This despite the fact that only yards away is a solid Victorian public building at risk of being torn down because the local authority can't afford to do it up.

    But of course a polyclinic has to have a posh new building, probably of the same appalling quality of the PFI buildings for physical and mental health herabouts.

  2. polyglot, polymath - it's not all bad! But I agree with what you're saying about polyclinics.