When you next pop into your local Tesco you could get that troublesome rash looked at before stocking up on the week’s shopping.

Proposals being put forward by health secretary Patricia Hewitt would see GP surgeries opening within some of our biggest superstores and retail outlets.

The aim is to ensure there is access to medical care in areas with too few doctors and “experienced healthcare providers” will be asked to apply for four contracts initially worth £30m over five years. It is reported that “entrepreneurial GPs, social enterprises and companies in the FTSE 100” will be encouraged to apply to run the surgeries and the Government claims it has already got a favourable response from retailers and prospective bidders.

I have mixed feeling on the initiative. I can understand the benefit of providing more doctors in areas where provision is currently too low to meet demand.

However, I am more concerned at the private enterprise aspect of the scheme. I wonder whether providing £30m – together with the associated resources – direct to existing NHS GPs in such areas would tackle the problem more effectively.

Placing such surgeries in outlets such as Tesco is also a cause for concern. It increasingly feels like the supermarket giant is slowly swallowing large chunks of the country, raking in massive profits, squeezing suppliers and muscling out competitors.

There are now a growing number of anti-Tesco campaigns in operation around the country as people grow increasingly alarmed at the extent of the company’s influence.

Surely investing additional money in the NHS is the way to solve the issues that this initiative is seeking to address?

Little wonder then that the Tories are putting the focus on health as Gordon Brown prepares to unveil his Budget on Wednesday.

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