Civic chiefs tasked with scrutinising health services in Gloucestershire say they want “the truth” about the issues facing the out-of-hours GP service.

Practice Plus Group, the firm running the county’s service, has been told it must improve staffing to meet its legal obligations.

Care Quality Commission inspectors have found the service still requires improvement.

Managers have also been told they must make sure enough GPs and other staff are on duty to cover 637,000 patients during evenings and weekends.

The latest inspection says there have been too many unfilled shifts on the rota and found that one week 73 patients classed as urgent over the weekend were still waiting to speak to a clinician the following Monday morning.

Councillor Andrew Gravells (C, Abbey), who chairs the health overview and scrutiny committee at Gloucestershire County Council, raised concerns about the issue at a meeting in January.

He said councillors began to scrutinise the NHS 111 service along with the out-of-hours service at the end of last year. This was in order to understand how they were working but he says councillors are still waiting for more information on the out-of-hours service.

“This independent report is very welcome and timely and it goes into a lot of detail and some of its findings are extremely serious and very concerning,” he said.

“That’s why I immediately asked for this report to be considered by the Gloucestershire health overview and scrutiny committee at its meeting next month as an urgent item.

“The report covers a lot of issues and for the inspectors to conclude that four of the five key areas they inspected require improvement is something that the committee members will want to hear a lot more about, and how that was allowed to arise in the first place.”

“We will want to understand how this contract has been monitored, and by whom, and we will want assurances from everybody involved that they recognise just how serious these findings are and what measures will now be taken to address them.”

Vice chairman David Drew (L, Stroud Central) said the committee has been pursuing the out-of-hours issue for the last few months and they are “just not getting answers”.

“Tell us the truth. If you are having problems getting GPs, you’ve got to be honest about that. And if you can’t do it, I’m sorry but you shouldn’t be running the organisation.”

A spokesperson for NHS Gloucestershire said they were grateful for the CQC’s inspection and its value in highlighting the need for improvements in the service, in particular around strengthening arrangements for training and supervision and in management of staff cover.

They said: “Other areas of focus are on managing risks and enhancing safety procedures. As commissioners, we fully acknowledge the work that has been recommended to make improvements and take our responsibilities to oversee these very seriously.

“We are proactively taking a number of steps to address the recommendations in the report. We have developed and implemented a detailed action plan and are closely monitoring delivery and reviewing progress against the recommendations.

“Regular assurance meetings are taking place between the NHS Gloucestershire Quality team and the provider, Practice Plus Urgent Care, and last week we met with the Out of Hours Patient Participation Group to gather further information and insight from patients’ perspectives.

“Our team are looking into complaints and taking steps to address these. We are also working with the provider to strengthen leadership capacity in key areas of service.

“We recognise that these improvements are needed at a time when workforce recruitment is challenging due to the well-documented national shortage of GPs and other healthcare professionals.

“Practice Group Urgent Care have drafted in experienced senior staff from other locations to lead on the implementation of the improvement plan for Gloucestershire. They have also successfully recruited a number of new members of staff which will help to ensure that going forward, rotas can be fully covered.

“Senior members of staff at NHS Gloucestershire are reviewing rotas on a daily basis to ensure that patients across the county can benefit from good access to quality care.

“We will continue to keep a close eye on progress against the action plan and to work with the provider team to ensure improvements are implemented as quickly as possible.”

By Carmelo Garcia – Local Democracy Reporter

Gloucester News Centre – http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk

Civic chiefs want answers over GP out-of-hours service failings by | Gloucester News Centre - http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk/
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