Essex practices run by Virgin Care lost more than 1,600 patients last year

GP practices in Essex run by private provider Virgin Care have lost more than 1,600 patients in the past year, analysis by GPonline reveals.

Essex GP practices run by Virgin Care losing patients (Photo: track5/Getty Images)
Essex GP practices run by Virgin Care losing patients (Photo: track5/Getty Images)

Of four practices run by the provider across Mid Essex CCG and Southend CCG, just one saw its list size increase in the year to November 2019 - despite rising numbers of patients registered with GPs across the area as a whole.

One practice, the requires improvement-rated Church Lane surgery in Braintree, lost 1,135 patients over the 12-month period - 9.1% of its patient list.

The three other Virgin-led practices in Essex are all rated good - including Sutherland Lodge, a practice that saw its CQC rating drop from outstanding to inadequate within 18 months after it was taken over by Virgin in 2016.

CQC rating

Despite the turnaround in its CQC rating, Sutherland Lodge has also seen a significant reduction in its patient list over the past year - losing 493 patients, equivalent to 4.5% of its patient list.

St Luke's surgery - the only one of the four Essex practices in Southend CCG, saw a slight drop in patient numbers, losing 93 over the year to November 2019 - while Silver End surgery, in Witham, gained 109.

The overall reduction in patient numbers across the four practices came despite a rise across the two CCG areas as a whole. Patient numbers in both Southend CCG and Mid Essex CCG inceased by around 1% over the one-year period.

Of 11 practices run by Virgin Care across England, eight are now rated good, with one rated outstanding, one rated requires improvement and a further practice yet to be rated since it was taken over by the private provider.

Quality care

A CQC inspection in October at the Sutherland Lodge practice, in Chelmsford, resulted in a rating of good overall - just under two years on from a previous inspection that found the practice was inadequate. Inspectors found the practice now had leaders with the 'capacity and skills to deliver high quality, sustainable care'.

The most recent visit rated the practice good in domains for safe, effective, responsive and well-led services - but scored it 'requires improvement' in the caring domain based on below average patient satisfaction scores.

GPonline reported last year that hundreds of patients had quit the Sutherland Lodge practice following its inadequate rating, as GP leaders raised concerns over the knock-on impact on neighbouring practices. The latest patient data show that the practice's current list is more than 1,000 patients down from when Virgin Care took over in 2016.

Head of primary care for Virgin Care Chris Pearson said: 'We are committed to continually improving the surgeries we’re trusted to run by the NHS and the results speak for themselves: nine of the 11 we have across the UK are now listed as "good" or "outstanding", and 93% of our patients say they would recommend our services. Our lists across Essex are open, and we’re regularly welcoming back patients to see how we’ve improved.

'In Essex, four of our five GP surgeries are now listed as "good" with Sutherland Lodge being awarded this rating by the CQC last week thanks to the dedication of our hard-working colleagues there. We took on the practices following the departure of the key staff, keeping these surgeries open for local people – and immediately set about stabilising and improving them.'

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