You may have heard a lot is happening with primary care in Essex for Virgin Care, where we run five GP practices.
All five of our GP surgeries have had Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections this year and this has kept us very busy.
When we took on these surgeries we knew we had a challenge ahead of us to turn them around.
- We were awarded Sutherland Lodge Surgery in July 2016 after all of the previous GP partners and many experienced staff resigned, leaving the practices with significant vacancies as they transferred over to us.
- Similarly, we were awarded the contracts for Silver End Surgery and the then St Lawrence Medical Practice (now known as Church Lane Surgery) both of which came with staffing challenges.
- St Luke’s Health Centre has also had challenges with the estate and Purfleet Care Centre had no GPs on board.
We were delighted when St Luke’s and Purfleet were both rated ‘good’ in their inspection reports by the CQC, published in September. This was our first inspection for St Luke’s. Purfleet had an inspection in May 2017 when it was rated ‘requires improvement’ so we are proud of all the work our colleagues have done to improve these services and achieve a rating of ‘good’.
We have also been continuing to carry out extensive improvements at Silver End. Following an inspection in January the overall rating was ‘requires improvement’ and we were encouraged that the CQC found the Practice ‘effective’ and ‘caring’ rating these areas ‘good’.
The two most challenging practices we deliver in Essex are Sutherland Lodge and Church Lane Surgeries. The difficulties have been acknowledged by the CQC through the published ‘inadequate’ ratings. Sutherland Lodge has had three inspections under our management and the most recent report published in August found ‘effective improvements’ and ‘stronger leadership and governance in place’. This is the result of months of hard work from our teams to implement an ambitious improvement plan, which patients are seeing the results of, and we are hoping the rating will improve substantially at their next inspection.
At Church Lane Surgery we are continuing our journey of improvement. In March 2017 we relocated to better premises and while we have faced some challenges, we have made, and continue to make, positive changes at the practice. These include:
- average waiting times for answering calls reducing from nine minutes in April to three minutes in September
- better outcomes for childhood immunisations which are above the national target
- offering more appointments for patients.
We are aware that further improvements are needed and an improvement plan is in place to make sure patients see the impact of these changes.
As an organisation, patient care is our top priority, with 76% of our CQC inspections resulting in a score of ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. We also know the reality of turning around a challenged service and that the transformational changes required can take time to embed. However, we are committed to ensuring all our GP practices in Essex deliver services to the highest standards with a well-supported and dedicated team, and our patients get the best possible care.