Surgery Statement at PPG AGM, 26th of January 2017

North Ridge Medical Practice Patient Participation Group, held their first AGM on the 26th of January 2017 at Bowles Lodge. The current committee was re-elected and and the posts of Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer will be voted on at the next PPG Committee meeting. At the meeting, the Surgery delivered a Statement prepared by Dr RJ Blundell concerning the future of GP practices in the NHS and also gave some feedback on the possible merger with Wish Valley Surgery. The statement  can be read below:

North Ridge Medical Practice (Dr RJ Blundell) statement to the PPG AGM  26th of January 2017

Reasons for Merger

General Practice has changed immeasurably over the past 30 years. When I started as a GP patients would present stating that they thought themselves ill and I would declare them unwell or well and advise them accordingly.

Now with screening we are advising people who consider themselves well, that they are in fact UNWELL and should take medications which although might seemingly make them feel unwell will actually either make them well or prevent them from becoming more unwell!

Similarly morning surgeries which used to finish at 10.30am now go on until 12.30pm and lunchtimes are long a thing of the past!! We have commensurately employed more staff and North Ridge now has over 20 people on the payroll.

We also have a Health Secretary in Mr. Hunt who is keen to spread valuable services thinner and thinner – 8am until 8pm surgeries for 7 days a week. Even the Parliamentary Audit Committee has questioned the wisdom of this. Should it happen, efficiency and effectiveness of consultations will reduce as such a service will only be affected by practices teaming up. Thus GPs will be seeing unfamiliar patients at weekends and as they will be taking back time in the week, they will not be available to see their own patients in the week.

I think we would intuitively say that care is most effectively and efficiently provided by a practice of our size where most regular patients know most of the doctors and the doctors are able to provide personal care as a result of personal, long term association with our patients. This becomes more important as patients age because the number and complexity of conditions increase and the challenge of dealing with one let alone several conditions within the 10 minute allocated time scale is difficult.

Personally I can only attempt to manage this task because much of the medical history relating to a patient is in my head and each consultation is more a continuation of a conversation as opposed to a new consultation.

That said. The Health Service is changing. The drive is towards ‘Super Practices ‘of 30000 + patients. One hopes this will be effected in Urban areas before rural areas and personally I hope I retire before it affects me.

In ten years’ time 7 out of the 9 doctors associated with the Hawkhurst Surgeries will have retired (in five years 3 out of the 9) and replacing them in the current NHS Climate might be a challenge, We thus have to look to the future to seek to provide premises and working environment which will be attractive to  young doctors.

Anecdotally young GPs are more likely to be women with family responsibilities who will want to work shorter defined hours and will be less inclined to want to take on the responsibilities of GP Partnership and or Premises ownership.

It is on that background that North Ridge and Wish Valley Surgeries have agreed in principle to moving to common new built premises.The CCG has made it clear that a practice merger will be required in return for their support of new premises.

New Premises

We have been actively seeking a site and support for New Premises for at least three years. (Request for PCT and CCG support antedated this by several years).The CCG have agreed in principle to support new Premises as long as the Practices merge.Several sites have been considered and still are being considered, but the front runner is Hawkhurst Cottage Hospital.This is the front runner primarily because the TWBC planners prefer this site. The obvious reservation is that it is on the outskirts of the village.

I have been involved in innumerable meetings with the Hospital management regarding the feasibility of moving to their site. They are supportive in principle, but it is still far from a ‘done deal’.

Financing the venture

The NHS will pay a rent for the completed premises and we should ideally like the premises to be owned by a Community Interest Company.Whilst it would be far easier to approach a company such as Virgin, Boots, or Assura to build the premises we feel a local Community Interest Company would probably be more supportive of the needs of the Community and , in the future should the rent exceed the mortgage there will be funds which could be used for charitable purposes in the Community.

We are very grateful to the League of Friends of Hawkhurst Cottage Hospital for their support in this idea and specifically to Mr Peter Hoole , Chairman of the LOF who,together with a subcommittee of the LOF , is actively looking at the practicalities of forming a CIC for the purposes of financing , building and owning the New Premises.

This is becoming increasingly urgent as when the current property owning GPs retire they will want to sell their share of the premises to redeem their mortgages.A lot of work needs to be done before this scheme comes to fruition. If anyone has specialist skills and would be happy to donate time for this scheme please do let us know.

I hope that we might be able to give more definite and positive news on this project by Easter.

DR RJ Blundell

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