Three Felixstowe GP surgeries face change and upheaval in the coming months – but the authorities insist that patient care will not be affected.
In November, with the imminent retirement of leading partner Dr Mckee, Walton Surgery was taken over by Suffolk GP Federation – a not-for-profit Federation of 58 independent GP practices covering 580,000 patients. Members remain independent organisations, whilst collaborating in the development of local primary care. For the time being Dr McKee was to remain in post as Clinical Lead, although the aim was to reduce his hours towards full retirement once a replacement could be found. A new doctor has just been appointed to the practice – Dr Kahlid.
This has also lead to three surgeries: Howard House, Walton and Haven Health, to start working more closely together – sharing some resources and providing a rota of doctors to cover slots at Felixstowe General.
Now final talks are underway to create a super group of 12 doctors’ surgeries in Suffolk in a bid to address some of the biggest challenges facing general practice today.
Suffolk Primary Care is the first collaboration of its kind in the county and it will see healthcare professionals sharing resources and expertise under the umbrella of one organisation, with a total of 102,529 registered patients.
The partnership includes:
- Brandon Medical Practice, Brandon
- Combs Ford Surgery, Stowmarket
- Deben Road Surgery, Ipswich
- Debenham Group Practice, Debenham
- Haven Health Surgery, Felixstowe
- Howard House Surgery, Felixstowe
- Leiston Surgery, Leiston
- Norwich Road Surgery, Ipswich
- Oakfield Surgery, Newmarket
- Orchard House Surgery, Newmarket
- Stowhealth, Stowmarket
- Walton Surgery, Felixstowe
Difficulties replacing retiring GPs, a rapid rise in the needs of an ageing population and ongoing concerns around funding have put the industry under great strain.
NHS England has called on surgeries to work more closely and the final agreement to officially form Suffolk Primary Care is expected to be signed in the coming weeks.
Dr Karen Blades, from Leiston Surgery, said: “The partnership is a very positive step and demonstrates that Suffolk is at the forefront of change – responding to NHS England’s call for practices to work together at a larger scale.”
She added: “Working as a larger organisation will also enable us to offer better career opportunities and greater job security to GPs, nurses and other practice staff, helping us to attract the very best healthcare professionals to the county and address issues around recruitment.”
In the short term, patients registered with a Suffolk Primary Care surgery will experience little difference. They will still be able to see the same staff, in the same buildings and receive the same quality of care.
However, over the next two years there will be gradual change. Access to services is expected to improve, with schemes like making practices dementia friendly, while surgeries will also start to work in closer collaboration – for example pooling paperwork so doctors have more time to spend with patients.
Longer term, more services such as physiotherapy, medicines management and social care will be provided within a local setting to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital.
There are also hopes the partnership with ensure more flexibility for patients so they can get help quicker – for example on the day appointments, telephone consultations, online access and advance booking.
Dr Nick Rayner, from Oakfield Surgery in Newmarket, said: “If general practice is to continue to deliver the high level of care that patients quite rightly expect then we must find new and innovative ways of working.
“As a partnership, practices that are part of Suffolk Primary Care will have much more influence and we will be able to shape the future of healthcare in the county much more effectively.”
The partnership approach has been backed by Suffolk’s two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which have match funded the project to the tune of £56,000.
Dr Mark Shenton, chairman of the Governing Body of NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and clinical lead for ensuring high quality services, said: “We currently deal with around 10,000 primary care appointments every day across our CCG area, and demand is increasing.
“It is so important that we support our whole system, and this is a positive step towards creating even better and stronger primary care services to meet this increasing demand.”
Patients who would like to know more about Suffolk Primary Care, or to share their views about how services can be improved, can contact their practice manager or email.