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CCG appoints providers to take over five privately-managed GP practices

A CCG in South West England has appointed new providers – including an NHS trust – to run five practices whose futures were put in jeopardy under the management of a private firm.

Four out of five of the practices in Swindon, run by Integral Medical Holdings, were placed in special measures by the CCQ earlier this year, with the final surgery rated as ‘requires improvement’.

NHS Swindon CCG said this had led IMH to withdraw from its contracts in the town and that the appointment of new providers ‘marks the beginning of the end of… an extremely difficult time for patients’.

Commissioners said two practices will be taken over by a local NHS trust, while a further two will join up with nearby practices and the final one, which holds an APMS contract, has become a branch surgery of a neighbouring practice.

Issues with IMH began at the beginning of the year when the company’s handling of phone bookings for the five surgeries led to patients going to A&E instead.

The firm went on to lose its contract for the appointment booking system following a ‘high number’ of patient complaints about difficulties with getting in touch with the practices.

Phoenix Surgery, which has over 4,500 patients, will be managed by Park Lane Practice from 26 November onwards.

Dr Peter Swinyard, a GP at Phoenix Surgery, said: ‘I am not mourning [IMH] leaving. They took over five practices which had been running fairly well and made total chaos of them. It was a total disaster for patients and pretty much a disaster for the doctors working for them.’

Eldene Surgery, which has a list of 7,600 patients, will be taken over by Victoria Cross Surgery on 11 November.

The 12,000-patient practice Moredon Medical Centre, managed by IMH subsiduary company Better Health Partnership, and 18,000-patient Abbey Meads Medical Group will be taken over by Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust at the end of November.

A spokesperson from the trust said: ‘Our plans are subject to further work with Swindon CCG, however we are confident that in time we will be able to transform the experience of both staff and patients.

‘Leading an integrated approach to care across Swindon is central to our long-term strategy and providing GP services, alongside our hospital and community services, will provide us with more opportunities to make care feel more joined-up for patients.’

Meanwhile Taw Hill Medical Practice, which has around 12,700 patients and is the only practice of the five to hold an APMS contract, became a branch surgery of Westrop Medical Practice on 1 October. 

Nicki Millin, director of strategy and transformation for Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire CCGs, said: ‘This is a significant moment and marks the beginning of the end of what has been an extremely difficult time for patients and their families in accessing services.

‘While the CCG had no influence or involvement in bringing IMH to Swindon, when it became apparent that things were not meeting the standard that we and our patients expected, appropriate action was taken, and it was this that led to firm’s withdrawal.’

She added: ‘Having communicated with patients, and learning from past experiences, we knew that any new providers had to be Swindon-based and part of the wider NHS family, and we are delighted to have been able to achieve this for each of the practices.’

A spokesperson for IMH Group said: ‘The health, safety and wellbeing of our patients always comes first for the IMH Group.

‘We are sorry for any distress caused by issues with the telephone booking system at the hub of practices we are in the process of moving over to alternative providers. We worked hard to rectify the issues that were within our control, and are doing our best to ensure patients can see a GP as soon as possible at the practices we still manage in the Swindon area.

‘We are working closely with the new providers to ensure a smooth handover for GPs and patients.’