We recognise that some patients have experienced difficulties caused by the new telephone booking system and central hub. We can only apologise for these difficulties and assure you that we are constantly reviewing processes, activity and staffing levels to ensure that we are providing high quality care. The number of calls and patient waiting times are monitored daily by the practice Management Team, and the Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group. We also recognise that our communication with patients has not been what is should have been and have plans to improve this in the New Year, with regular patient Newsletters and a new Group Practice website (betterhealthpartnership.co.uk).
In September last year, Abbey Meads Medical Group, Moredon Medical Centre, Taw Hill Medical Practice, Eldene Surgery, and Phoenix Surgery began working collaboratively as a primary care network with the support of Integral Medical Holdings (IMH), who provide our back-office services such as payroll, HR, finance and management support. This collaboration was formed fundamentally to maintain the services provided by these surgeries and to look to develop new ways of working in line with the Government’s plan for primary care – the ‘General Practice Five Year Forward View’. The group is now known as the Better Health Partnership.
The reason for doing this was to ensure easier access to appointments, the provision of new services – such as physiotherapy and pharmacy – and standardised and improved patient outcomes, as well as allowing a move to enhanced, proactive and flexible care.
Practices across the country are struggling to sustain services, particularly in the wake of a national shortage of GPs that has made it extremely difficult to recruit new GPs to provide clinical services. This, coupled with the increasing workload in General Practice, has made it less attractive for GPs to take on the personal financial and managerial responsibility of becoming partners in GP surgeries. The inability to recruit partners for these surgeries combined with the rising cost of using temporary (locum) GPs to maintain services, meant that there is a widespread serious and imminent risk of bankruptcy and Practice closure across the country.
Had we as partners of these five practices not taken the steps we did and had this resultant collaboration not happened, there was a genuine risk that Practices would have closed, resulting in up to 54,000 patients being re-assigned to other local surgeries, potentially destabilising other services in the area. What has happened in Swindon is not new; it is happening all over the UK. General Practice is facing a crisis in recruitment and funding. We seek to create a service that will maintain localised clinical services in communities and develop new ways of providing care.
Local politicians have been invited to meet with the General Manager and CEO of IMH, who have facilitated the collaboration. We continue to engage with other local stakeholders to examine how we can improve the service. There are no ‘speedy solutions’ to providing these improvements or any of the issues facing the NHS. However, we have a dedicated, committed and enthusiastic team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics and administration staff who are working tirelessly to make this service a success. We consider ourselves to be part of your community, which is why we want the people of Swindon to understand the reasons why these practices have come together.
We would like to take this opportunity to not only thank all our staff, but all those patients who have been supportive and understanding. At Better Health Partnership, we welcome constructive input from patients through the existing patient participation groups linked to surgeries and would encourage patients to use these channels to provide feedback to us as a group so that we can continue to improve our services. If you wish to join our patient participation group, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org stating your interest with your name and contact details. Alternatively, please call the practice to ask for details.
Dr David Jones
GP Executive Partner
Better Health Partnership