Prior to the most recent press announcement, I have been working for sometime to support the ongoing issues at Ocean Health GP Practice in St Budeaux. I have been working to support many constituents who have been unhappy with unanswered telephone lines, long waits for appointments and issues with obtaining repeat prescriptions.
As a result, I have been in close correspondence with both the Practice itself and also with NHS England. It has been my priority to ensure a workable solution to the issues in St Budeaux be found as soon as possible to ensure local residents have the medical service they require.
In the Spring, news came of a merger between Ocean Health (encompassing the Stirling Road Surgery, the Acute Care Centre on Chard Road and also a practice in Eggbuckland) and Beacon Medical Group (a successful practice in Plympton and Ivybridge). This plan seemed like a positive move as it would incorporate the successful practices Beacon had already shown to implement and was something I communicated to local residents, encouraging them to take part in the public consultation into the plans.
However, during the course of the General Election campaign it was announced that the planned merger had collapsed. As a result of this announcement, shortly after the election, I met with Partners from Ocean Health to be updated on the situation and encourage planning of how other new provision could be implemented to improve the current state. I held similar conversations with NHS England as they are responsible for the future of the GP provision in the area.
Following these meetings in June, I have remained in close communication with both NHS England and the Partners at Ocean Health. I subsequently learnt on 28th July that the Partners at Ocean Health had handed back their contract. NHS England will now begin the tendering process to find a replacement provider.
The issues in St Budeaux are part of a wider challenge across Plymouth as a whole – we are struggling to recruit and retain enough GPs to ensure practices have the staff to accommodate the number of patients in the city – something I have been working with stakeholders in Plymouth to solve since being elected.
I will be redoubling my efforts on the work I have been conducting around GP provision in St Budeaux following the most recent news, as well as in Ernesettle where a new provider is also been sought to run the GP service there, and in Barne Barton where plans are underway to extend service provision, and across the city as a whole.
Unfortunately, these issues have been at play for some time. I have seen suggestions this is to do with the public sector pay cap. It is important to stress that this is not correct. While there clearly are issues, and I work with bodies such as NHS England to right them, misdiagnosing the issues helps no-one. It means focus, time and energy spent on something that won’t solve the problem and ultimately the constituent loses out.
Action is already underway as of Tuesday 1st of August to strengthen Ocean Health following the return of their contract. Devon Doctors will be working the Ocean Health phone lines from 12pm which will allow patients to be triaged by experienced clinicians and the right action to be taken. Extra capacity through clinics and doctors will be provided. Furthermore, an interim provider from an approved South West list will be appointed. The timeframe is dependent on interest, but I will maintain the pressure on behalf of constituents to ensure this process is as efficient as possible.
I will also be convening a meeting with NHS England, NEW Devon CCG and Plymouth City Council to ensure their joint strategic plan to strengthen GP care works for constituents and prevents a recurrence of the issues we have seen in this instance.
As always, if you have been affected by issues related to this piece, you can get in touch via the contact page.
For more information, you can see the media release from NHS England here.