Out-of-hours doctor service placed in special measures by watchdog

The out-of-ours provider, which is independent of the GP surgeries, has been told to improve.

The out-of-ours provider, which is independent of the GP surgeries, has been told to improve. - Credit: Archant

An out-of-hours doctor service operating from surgeries in Huntingdonshire area has been branded “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission and the service has been put in special measures.

Alconbury Weald-based West Cambs Federation Community Interest Company, which offers services from local surgeries, has been told to take action to put matters right by the health watchdog.

The CQC rated services it offered from premises at the Acorn Surgery, Huntingdon, Cromwell Place Surgery, St Ives, and Buckden Surgery, as inadequate overall, together with a fourth in March.

All three, which are separate from the surgeries they are based at, were given individual inadequate ratings for safety of services, effectiveness of services and being well-led. They were all given "good" ratings over whether services were caring and being responsive to people's needs.

The federation, an independent provider, offers evening and weekend services to around 200,000 patients from 28 GP practices. It was founded in 2015 and started offering routine GP services from surgeries it uses, last September.

Dr Rosie Benneyworth, chief inspector of primary medical services and integrated care, said in her CQC report: "I am placing this service in special measures. Services placed in special measures will be inspected again within six months.

"If insufficient improvements have been made such that there remains a rating of inadequate for any key question or overall, we will take action in line with our enforcement procedures to begin the process of preventing the provider from operating the service."

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The CQC said there had been "multiple breaches" of the regulations and that the service had not ensured care and treatment was always provided in a safe way to patients and that patients were not adequately protected from avoidable harm and abuse. It was critical of the organisation's leadership.

It said the provider must make improvements to ensure patients received safe care, to establish effective governance systems, to ensure staff were suitably qualified and to improve recruitment.

Janet Williamson, deputy chief inspector of general practice and dentistry in the CQC's central region, said: "It is important that the people who are registered with these practices can rely on getting the high quality care which everyone is entitled to receive from their GP.

"Inspectors found these services were failing to provide the level of care people should be able to expect."

She said: "We found a number of concerns at these services and as a result of our findings they have been rated inadequate and placed into special measures.

"We will continue to monitor these practices and we will inspect again in six months to check whether improvements have been made."

A spokesman for the federation said they delivered the improved access service for evening and weekend routine, non-urgent clinical appointments from four hubs.

The hubs were existing GP surgeries which they operated from, had their own CQC inspections, were not the providers being inspected but were the registered addresses for the service.

The spokesman said: "West Cambs Federation was inspected on July 19, 2019. We were rated inadequate.

"West Cambs Federation has been running the improved access service since Sept 2018. We took on the service at short notice and worked to get it up and running.

"The CQC inspection highlighted the challenges that we had faced. We accept the rating and we developed an action plan within 24 hrs. We have worked closely with the CQC and CCG to ensure that our action plan addresses the issues raised during the inspection."

The spokesman said: "It is important to say that the issues raised during the inspection were systemic, organisational issues and at no point has there been any question that our brilliant staff deliver an excellent service to patients.

"The patient feedback that we collect clearly demonstrates that they value the service we provide. We employ staff who already work within GP practices across west Cambridgeshire.

"However, we did not have adequate processes for checking mandatory training requirements. In addition, we were not carrying out appropriate auditing and monitoring."

The spokesman added: "Since the inspection, our board membership has changed and we are developing new and robust governance structures. We have started to deliver training to our workforce and we are introducing a number of new/revised policies and procedures."