Shock CQC closure of failing practice highlights chronic shortage of GPs

The emergency closure of an East Sussex practice rated 'inadequate' by the CQC came as a 'complete surprise' to patients and highlights chronic GP shortages in the area, a local watchdog has said.

CQC ratings: GP practice closed
CQC ratings: GP practice closed

Patients felt ‘deep distress and confusion’ following the CQC's move to cancel immediately the registration of Goodwood Court Medical Centre, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove warned.

The local watchdog revealed it had received a number of phone calls from worried patients in the aftermath of the practice's closure.

Shortages of GPs ‘seem to have been a key issue’ in the practice’s ‘unprecedented’ closure and – despite arrangements made to accommodate its 10,000 patients – long-term care for the affected patients remains uncertain, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove said.

The CQC used its emergency powers to shut down Goodwood Court Medical Centre after concluding that the practice was in breach of seven Health and Social Care Act regulations and putting patients at ‘serious risk of harm’.

Inspectors said the practice had hired a person to act as a physician’s assistant and see patients instead of a GP – but there was no evidence that they were qualified to perform either role.

Map: GP CQC ratings

The CQC report shows that, despite the numerous failings, many patients thought the practice was ‘caring’.

The practice’s shortcomings therefore exposed a ‘breach of patient trust’, said Healthwatch representatives, and a devastating consequence of GP shortages.

‘The final report from the CQC said the practice was at serious risk of harming people, a disheartening indictment for a service that we all rely on to make us better,’ it said.

‘It is evident that a vision, leadership and systems were not in place to ensure patients were safe.

‘Everything from managing medications, record keeping and the provision of repeat prescriptions to ensuring staff were professionally vetted and police checks were carried out were inadequate. A picture was painted of a surgery overwhelmed.’

GP practice closure

Goodwood’s cohort of 10,000 patients have since been directed to another local practice, the Chart Medical Centre, by NHS England to ensure they continue to receive essential care.

But Healthwatch Brighton and Hove warned that ‘thousands appear not to have registered there’. Furthermore, the temporary solution meant the future care of those that did remained uncertain.

‘This emergency contract only lasts until April 2016,’ it added, ‘and some patients may have to move again. We already have stories of Charter having to pull in its boundaries for existing patients, so the fallout may affect more than patients from Goodwood.’

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