Ministers have repeatedly insisted that government plans for 300 super-surgeries, housing up to 25 GPs, will not be imposed, but agreed through consultations with local communities.
However, information gathered from primary care trusts (PCTs) leaves those pledges in tatters.
Half of the PCTs that responded said they would not consult on plans to build centres and some cited advice from the Department of Health as the reason for their decision.
The disclosures, from 100 of England’s 152 PCTs, appear to render meaningless recent promises by Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, who said last month he would “insist” that all decisions on the centres be “taken in consultation with local people”, later adding that there was “no argument for imposing” the plans.
Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said the new information, gathered by the Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act, demonstrated the Health Secretary’s pledges to be “no more than spin”.
Mr Lansley said: “Labour has claimed that they are not imposing polyclinics on local people, but these figures expose that lie for what it is.”
The BMA said this confirmed its fears that a policy that could push smaller practices out of business was being forced through, regardless of opposition.
The disclosures show that just 44 of the 100 PCTs that responded intend to subject their plans to formal consultation. Six have yet to decide, while 50 said they would not be consulting the public.
Several mentioned DoH advice, quietly issued in January, that there is no legal obligation to carry out a formal consultation, and that it is a matter for local discretion. Others said they could not consult on something which was a Government directive, or that they had not been given the time to seek the views of the public.
The Government is spending £250million introducing polyclinics, which will bring groups of GPs together in large centres offering services such as minor surgery and diagnostic tests. Each PCT is expected to create at least one in its area.
So far, the plans have encountered opposition from doctors and patients. More than one million people signed a petition opposing the policy.
The Conservatives claim as many as 1,700 practices across England could be forced to close as a result of the move.
Ministers have repeatedly said that while the plan to introduce 300 new practices across the country, including 150 in London, is government policy, proposals about where they are sited, and what each scheme involves, should be subject to local consultation.
England’s 152 PCTs have until the end of next month to draw up a shortlist of bidders to run the new services. Big businesses such as Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Healthcare are expected to enter the market, while others will be run by groups of GPs.
Mr Lansley said: “Rather than attempt to debate polyclinics with local people and win them over with the facts, Labour has instead resorted to spin and obfuscation. They know how unpopular their plans to shut down local GP services are, and are simply running scared.”
Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, of the BMA’s GP committee, said they had repeatedly warned that much of the consultation had been patchy and that without proper debate, centres would be built in the wrong parts of the country.
The Department of Health said all PCTs had been told it was their legal duty to “involve” patients in the planning of services, and those who had not done so formally had used focus groups and road shows to involve the public.