Eastbourne’s Victoria Medical Centre addresses ‘teething problems’

Eastbourne’s Victoria Medical Centre (VMC) has addressed ‘teething problems’ which have led to ‘dissatisfaction’ around car parking, phoning the surgery, reception organisation and the website.

Eastbourne’s Victoria Medical Centre (VMC) has addressed ‘teething problems’ which have led to ‘dissatisfaction’ around car parking, phoning the surgery, reception organisation and the website.

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Victoria Medical Centre SUS-210408-093303001

In the latest VMC newsletter, which was sent to patients on Thursday, January 20, a spokesperson said, “On August 10, 2021 the new VMC formally opened to patients.

“Like any such enterprise it has experienced teething problems, although in this case they were exacerbated by significant challenges – first the development was hampered by the pandemic and second because it required the simultaneous amalgamation of three separate clinics: Green Street, Enys Road and Bolton Road.

“We are proud of the achievements to date in this respect and the enduring excellent reputation of our medical staff.

“It has, however, taken time to make all the necessary process changes and we are acutely aware, as a result of feedback from the Victoria Patient Participation Group (VPPG), of the dissatisfaction being widely expressed over some aspects of the service; these include car parking difficulties, accessing the VMC by telephone, lack of organisation at reception, the website and other issues.”

The spokesperson said the intention with the newsletter was to explain how the surgery is working with the VPPG to address concerns.

VMC said during the construction of its Victoria Drive site the VPPG had a meeting with developers to discuss the recommendations they had submitted around car parking - based on patient requirements.

The spokesperson said, “These had mostly been accepted, but two had not.

“A pedestrian entrance from Victoria Drive, not in the original plans, had now been included at their request, but only as steps, not with a slope as well for people who needed wheels to aid their mobility. Unfortunately, the local council has turned this down because of some protected tree roots.

“The second issue was the width of the individual car spaces, which the VPPG had asked to be wider than the standard to aid certain people to get in and out of their cars. This again had been blocked by the council.

“There are four spaces reserved for Blue Badge holders, but at the meeting, the VPPG managed to agree a further five spaces which would be clear of other vehicles on one side, for which priority for physically restricted people and those with infants would be given.

“At the time of opening of the VMC on August 10, 2021, the car park had yet to be signed; in the interests of patient safety and best use, the VPPG led the design and installation of signs to establish good traffic management, now in place.”

VMC has also addressed concerns surrounding ‘lack of organisation at reception’.

The spokesperson said, “The ground floor reception area is now, for the most part, staffed by two people who will be able to discuss the availability of appointments for that day as well as over the coming weeks.

“One person will be behind the desk available for queries or the making of appointments.

“To alleviate the queuing that occurs at the busiest time of the day – early morning – one of the two on duty will be in the waiting area with a laptop to check patients in and direct them to the correct waiting area for their appointment.

“In addition, a screen is available on the wall to the left of reception to enable patients to sign themselves in.”

The spokesperson said appointments with a nurse will usually take place on the ground floor while those expecting to see a GP will be asked to go straight to the first floor – where a separate reception area will check patients in and advise the doctor that they are waiting.

VMC said its website is now fully-functional and can be used to access all information.

The websites for the Green Street and Bolton Road surgeries are no longer operational, according to the spokesperson.

They added, “The deletion of the Enys Road website is proving more difficult as it sits with another provider.

“In the meantime, it is not being updated and should not be used.”

With patient concerns around correspondence and phone waiting times dating back to May, VMC said at the time of opening in August, the admin team were dealing with more than 3,000 emails at any one time.

The spokesperson said the team was dealing with all levels of correspondence, including queries that came in for the 13 GPs registered at VMC, as well as record keeping and covering telephones.

The VMC spokesperson said, “To provide a speedier response and also ensure all queries go straight to the right place to be dealt with, the VMC has recruited a team of PAs whose hours have been aligned to the team of GPs ensuring all their correspondence is identified quickly and dealt with centrally, leaving the balance of queries to be dealt with by the admin team.”

VMC said it has also recruited 11 new staff since June 6, 2021.

The spokesperson said the action taken has allowed the admin team to focus on answering the phones.

They added, “Over the last couple of months the monitoring has shown an improvement in the call wait times, it is still not consistent and where we would like it to be - which is the commitment of no more than 10 minutes.

“There is a system now in place that triggers all staff to focus on answering telephones when the registered wait time reaches 10 minutes.

“It is inevitable that UK-wide initiatives, such as the covid vaccine programme and, in part, the latest emphasis on boosters, will have an impact on [the] volume [of] calls to any practice.”

Eastbourne Borough Council has been contacted for a comment about the car park plans.