Merged for a year – how Marlborough and Pewsey surgeries are working as oneThe merger of the Marlboorough and Pewsey GP surgeries into one organisation - the Kennet and Avon Medical Practice (KAMP) - was formally completed a year go as a way to sustain a full GP-led health service in the wider Marlborough and Pewsey area. Now the results of the merged Patient Participation Group’s survey has shown how the merger has gone down with their patients.
The merger has brought resilience and stability but no new doctors - they are still three doctors short. The Partners talk of the ‘chronic national shortage of GPs’: “It really must be stressed that we have not been able to recruit a single GP in the last year and are having to rely on locums to fill the gaps.” They are able to employ some long-term locums.
The PPG Survey was carried out during the ‘flu jab’ period at the end of last year and 539 patients responded - representing a good cross section of opinion by age and gender.
Despite the uncertainties surrounding the merger, the majority of respondents were satisfied with KAMP - nearly 20 per cent were ‘very satisfied’ and another nearly 43 per cent were ‘satisfied’. The Partners recognize that there have been some teething problems following the merger.
The phone service and the merger of patient records took five months to complete – due to third party delays. For a time online booking of appointments was impossible for some patients.
In Pewsey there have been some rumours that the surgery there would close. The Partners' response: “It seems unimaginable that we should go through the amount of work required to merge two practices just shut one down. The merger was a move taken to save Peswey.”
There is, as you would expect, some fine tuning still being done. For instance, they are making sure that all patients go to the right surgery for their appointment.
Comments by those taking part in the survey highlight the often heard complaints about the difficulty of getting appointments – especially to see your own GP. In the face of the national shortage of GPs and the difficulty some practices have in staff retention, changes have had to be made.
For the continuity of seeing your own doctor, you may have to wait. Or, after a triage phone call and when the symptoms signal urgency, you will see a duty doctor the same day.
In their response to the PPG survey, the Partners have underlined the fact that face-to-face time with patients is just one of their everyday tasks – the others are not necessarily seen or always acknowledged by patients.
Doctors have to arrange palliative care and other support packages, write referrals to consultants, sign death certificates, ensure safeguarding, have clinical meetings with other clinicians, visit patients at home and in care homes and attend Clinical Commissioning Group meetings.
Meanwhile KAMP has been busy recruiting other staff. They now have a team of four enthusiastic Health Care Assistants - two of whom are new appointments. Their Advanced Nurse Practitioner makes regular visits to patients in care homes and in their own homes. And by August - when another new recruit joins - they will have two Practice Nurses.
Planning is already starting for the next round of flu jabs. This year there will be the added complication that the over sixty-fives will be getting a different jab to the other ‘at risk’ categories such as pregnant women.
It is not just a matter of appointments for some 4,500 people – they have to make sure they have enough fridge space at the right times to keep all those ‘jabs’ at the right temperature.
The full report of the PPG survey can be read here.