Help brought in to save two Littlehampton GP surgeries threatened with closure

Two GP surgeries are drafting in help to turn around their fortunes after being threatened with closure.

Dr Yvonne Grant outside Fitzalan Medical Centre in Fitzalan Road, Littlehampton
Dr Yvonne Grant outside Fitzalan Medical Centre in Fitzalan Road, Littlehampton

Fitzalan Medical Group, which looks after 16,500 patients at surgeries in Fitzalan Road, Littlehampton, and Clun Road, Wick, was told by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that if it did not raise its standards in six months its registration could be cancelled. Click here to read the full story.In response, GP partners Dr Laura Smyth and Dr Yvonne Grant said they were ‘very sorry for any concern or worry caused to our patients’ and would be working with the local GP federation, Innovations in Primary Care, to make faster improvements.

They said: “We are confident that with their help we will continue to provide the high levels of care for our patients we want, and move forward the improvements to our systems and the way we work to lift the practice out of special measures.”

Following a CQC inspection in December, the group was rated as ‘inadequate’ – the lowest rating – and placed in special measures in March.

But after two inspections in July and August, the group was given a further ‘inadequate’ rating in a report published on October 16. In it, the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice said ‘insufficient improvements had been made’.

Sue Parton, executive director of Innovations in Primary Care, said: “We are committed to working with the team at Fitzalan Medical Group to give them the ability to improve.

“At the moment, they are balancing a number of things, not least the utmost priority of continuing to provide care to their patients.

“What we can offer is specialist support to address the areas where they need to improve and help them to do this quickly so we can provide assurance to the CQC, their patients and the wider system.

“We also want to work with the patients of Fitzalan Medical Group - you know what is working and where improvements can be made.

“We will be re-launching the practice’s Patient Participation Group and are keen for the patients to work with us so that together we make Fitzalan the best it can be for the local community.”

Littlehampton town councillor Freddie Tandy is himself a patient at Fitzalan Medical Group. He said: “Time and time and time again Labour has highlighted the complete lack of action and inadequacy of the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group.

"They failed to recognise the desperate need for the provision of GP facilities in the North Littlehampton whilst overseeing the closure of Arun Medical Group in East Street, which resulted in the transfer of more than 7,000 patients to Fitzalan with absolutely no practical support offered to the hard-working doctors and staff at the surgery."

Fellow Littlehampton Labour Councillor Mike Northeast added: “The CCG can help relieve the pressure at Fitzalan surgery by immediately commissioning the desperately needed new GP service for North Littlehampton, where more than 1,000 new homes are being built. If they don’t, we could soon see over 3,000 new residents needing to register with the already overstretched Fitzalan and Park Surgeries."

Gill Galliano and Dr Sarah Pledger are from the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group – an NHS body which oversees healthcare provision locally - which got Innovations in Primary Care involved after the CQC result.

They said: “Making sure that people in Littlehampton – and across Coastal West Sussex – have access to GP services is an absolute priority.

“We can reassure all local people that Fitzalan Medical Group is not closing and all of the staff at Fitzalan are dedicated to continuing to make the changes they need and improving care for their patients.

“To support the team at Fitzalan Medical Group – and the whole locality – we have agreed a package of support from Innovations in Primary Care, the local GP Federation, to offer specialist help and advice to the practice to make their necessary improvements.

“IPC have significant experience is supporting local GP practices and we are confident that this will give the team the help they need at this time.

“We will continue to work with the whole practice team as further progress is made.

“It is also really encouraging to see how the whole locality is working together, as this is not just about one practice, but how the GP practices in the wider Littlehampton as a whole, can support each other and work together to provide the best possible care to local people.”