A popular GP practice with nationally outstanding patient satisfaction levels, as revealed by a 2023 NHS survey, was just a few months ago informed by the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) that it had lost its bid to remain in control of its popular practice.
Following the outcome of a flawed tender process, Dr Ann Robinson, the GP Partner at Withnell Health Centre in Chorley, Lancashire, was informed that a new provider of GP services, SSP Health, would be taking over from 1 April 2023.
Following a vigorous and high-profile campaign to overturn the decision, led by Labour Councillor Margaret France, highlighting the fatal flaws, the ICB cancelled the tender. The practice was given a 12-month grace period to continue while a new bid document is created.
In the national GP Patient Survey 2023 conducted by the NHS, the Withnell Health Centre recorded some of the highest levels of patient satisfaction scores in the country.
For example, 99% of patients said they had confidence in the healthcare professional they spoke to. 99% said they were involved as much as they wanted to be in decisions about their healthcare. Again, 99% said they were given an exact time for their appointment. Some 90% found it easy to contact the surgery by phone (the national figure is 50%). When asked about the helpfulness of reception staff, 97% said the practice was helpful.
The stellar results continue: 94% of patients were satisfied with the appointment they were offered (the national figure is 72%). Some 98% said that the healthcare professional was good at giving them the time they needed. Again, 98% of respondents said that the healthcare professional they saw treated them with care and concern (the national figure is 84%). And 95% felt the healthcare professional they saw recognised or understood any mental health needs.
Overall, Withnell Health Centre obtained an astonishing overall “good” rating of 97%.
Dr Robinson commented: “Given that this has been the most traumatic 12 months in the practice’s history, these results are testimony to the hard work, professionalism, dedication, and genuine care displayed by our team here.
“Just a few months ago, I was told that I would have to leave a practice that I love. I was placed under a gagging order which prevented me for telling anyone. When we were given the devastating news that we had lost the contract to an outside bidder, many of our team said they would rather leave than work for the new provider. I had patients in tears at the prospect of a new provider of GP services. Other patients said they would prefer to de-list rather than face an uncertain future after 10 years with us.
“We are proud to be a community care–based practice. Study after study have confirmed that continuity of community–based healthcare has positive outcomes. That’s why we have been able to achieve such outstanding results.”
Campaign leader Councillor Margaret France said: “It beggars belief that a GP practice that any ICB in the country would be proud to have as one of theirs is once again facing a battle to survive in its current form. And yet, at the same time, we are a shining example to any GP practice in the country as to how community-focused care should be delivered.
“How does the ICB intend to improve on a 99% approval rating? Why is the ICB bent on fixing something that is patently not broken and is a centre of excellence?
“Instead of spending taxpayer money on a new tender process, which no-one in the community wants, why doesn’t the ICB congratulate Dr Robinson and her team and reiterate its commitment to preserving and developing community-based care and leave Dr Robinson and her team in place to garner more impressive achievements?”