Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group fully understands that the recent problems some patients at some GP surgeries across the town have faced – particularly when trying to make appointments over the telephone – have been completely unacceptable.

Having reason to visit a doctor at a time of ill health is enough to make any person feel anxious, and we acknowledge and apologise that these difficult situations have, in some cases, been made worse by the recent changes introduced by the GP practices in partnership with the IMH Group.

However, recent stories in the local press have reported a number of inaccuracies, which we would like to offer patients across Swindon some clarity on.

Clarity

While we appreciate this information will not solve problems overnight, we hope it will provide people with clarity about how and why changes were introduced.

Firstly, the decision for the five surgeries – Abbey Meads Medical Group, Moredon Medical Centre, Taw Hill Medical Practice, Eldene Surgery and Phoenix Surgery – to begin working with IMH was made by the GP partners, working at each of the surgeries.

Practices across the country – including many in Swindon – have for some time been looking at new ways of working that will help GPs spend more time with their patients and less time on administrative work.

The partnership with IMH enabled these five practices to join forces and share many back-office functions, such as payroll, record keeping and diary management, which in turn allowed GPs to focus all their attention on caring for patients.

For this reason, the CCG supported the GPs’ decision, as the long-term outcome of the move would bring many improvements to patients.

No truth

There is no truth in the rumour that this change of working was in any way linked with making financial savings, cutting back on services or privatisation of the NHS by the backdoor.

Furthermore, there was no tender or new procurement process by the CCG around these arrangements.

As part of the work to reduce administration, a collective decision between IMH and the five GP practices was made to redirect patient calls to their respective surgeries to a single call centre, which has now become known as the hub.

A decision that was supported by Swindon CCG.

We are the first to admit that the problems this caused were far greater than had been anticipated and, for this, we once again apologise.

Still more to do

However, since then, we have been working tirelessly with IMH, Patient Participation Groups, Healthwatch Swindon and our local MPs to continually monitor performance, investigate cases of concern and ensure improvements are being made.

Extra staff – both clinical and non-clinical – have been recruited and we are starting to see average waiting times for calls to be answered improve.

But while there continues to be incidents of people waiting much longer than anyone would like, we will continue to do all we can to get things to a standard that meet the expectations of both patients and staff.

In hindsight, we know there have been many areas – such as providing information and keeping people updated – before and during this process that could have been handled much better.

We know more needs to be done, and we would strongly encourage anybody with concerns to make them known to us, as this allows us to identify where things are going wrong and implement the necessary changes.

Ensuring patients have access to the best possible care has always been our top priority, and this has not changed.

While it may not offer much comfort to those who have experienced problems in the last few months, this process has taught us some valuable lessons which we will carry forward and refer to when changes are introduced to other areas of healthcare.

Working with you

The CCG is set to hold a learning event in March, which will see figures from IMH, as well as the local community, sit around and table to discuss what went wrong, lessons learned and where future improvements can be made. 

A further event, which will be open to the public, will follow this meeting and will be an opportunity for patients and members of the public to hear updates on what was discussed and the planned next steps. 

Details of this meeting will be advertised as soon as a venue, date and time has been confirmed.  

Get in touch

Patients who would like to raise concerns can speak to the team at their practice, or talk to our Patient Advice and Complaints Team using the details below:

Phone: 0300 200 8844

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Post: Patient Advice and Complains Team, Priory Road Medical Centre, Priory Road, Park South, Swindon, SN3 2EZ