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Fourth practice in single town put in special measures after CQC inspection

Four GP surgeries in Swindon run by the same provider have been placed in special measures following CQC inspections. 

The practices run by Better Health Partnership, a subsidiary of Integral Medical Holdings (IMH), have to make urgent improvements, according to the CQC. A further practice run by the provider also ‘requires improvement’. 

Practices in the town have been struggling since IMH recently withdrew its contract running GP appointments systems after a high number of complaints were filed over technical issues.

The latest practice to be assessed by the CQC was Abbey Meads Village Centre, which was rated ‘inadequate’ by the CQC this week, although the care provided was rated as ‘good’.

Earlier this year, three of the provider’s other practices were also placed in special measures: Moredon Medical Centre, Eldene Surgery and Phoenix Surgery, while Taw Hill Surgery was rated as ‘requires improvement’. 

The CQC has said the provider Better Health Partnership has been placed with urgent conditions, relating to all five GP practices, which serve a combined list size of almost 55,000 patients.

According to the report, the reason for Abbey Meads rating was in relation to ‘significant issues’ with patient safety, quality of service, leadership and governance.

Inspectors said the special measures placed upon Abbey Meads Village Centre, which serves almost 18,000 patients, were due to the practice not having clear systems to keep patients safe or manage medicines safely. They also found the practice did not make improvements when things went wrong.

The CQC has said practices placed under special measures will be inspected again in six months’ time, and if there is no improvement, then enforcement procedures will take effect. 

The report said: ‘If insufficient improvements have been made such that there remains a rating of inadequate for any population group, key question or overall, we will take action in line with our enforcement procedures to begin the process of preventing the provider from operating the service. This will lead to cancelling their registration or to varying the terms of their registration within six months if they do not improve.’

It follows the news that the CQC has increased the number of criminal actions against medical providers by over 30%

Ruth Rankine, deputy chief inspector of general practice for the South of England, said about Abbey Meads Practice: ‘We will continue to monitor progress and we will inspect again within six months to check whether sufficient improvements have been made. The practice needs to do what is required for the sake of their patients but if we find that the service remains inadequate, we will not hesitate to take further enforcement action even if that leads to cancelling its registration.’

Dr Peter Swinyard, a GP at Phoenix surgery, said he agreed with the CQC ratings.

He said: ‘If you look at the ratings, caring is good and all the other things are inadequate, because that is all to do with the administration, which is completely and utterly out of my hands.

‘Yes they don’t answer the phone properly, no they don’t have the fire safety stuff up to date and so on etc. It’s a catalogue of bad management, which has only recently been rectified by a good group manager who’s just started, who’s trying to put it all right.

‘It has been a catalogue of calamity and consecutive bad management. There’s not a lot the doctors working in the surgeries can do about that. It’s very depressing and it’s bad reputation for us. I don’t like being tarred with the brush of inadequate.’

A Better Health Partnership spokesperson said they are deeply disappointed by the CQC rating and have already implemented measures such as a local leadership change and a new complaints system.

They said: ‘The health and wellbeing of the patients at all our medical sites has always been our top priority.

‘We are deeply disappointed by the findings of the CQC report. We sincerely apologise to our patients and colleagues and fully accept the impact our shortcomings may have had on them.

‘A comprehensive review of our procedures is underway,’ a spokesperson from Swindon CCG said.

The CQC’s concerns were ‘shared by the CCG and was ultimately one of the catalysts for the decision to call time on IMH’s involvement with primary care in Swindon.

‘The CCG is now working to identify potential local, NHS-based providers that can support the practices in the long-term.’