How a GP practice kept services running after a suspected arson attack

GPs at a Nottingham practice were woken in the night early this week after a suspected arson attack left their premises ablaze - but a day later the surgery was open with barely an appointment missed.

(Photo: Tetra Images/Getty Images)
(Photo: Tetra Images/Getty Images)

GPonline reported earlier this week that police were treating a break-in and fire at the Roundwood Surgery, in Mansfield, as suspected arson.

The fire left one room at the practice completely destroyed, partner Dr Milind Tadpatrikar said - with a computer and printer melted, and a desk and consulting room chair burned along with books belonging to the GP who used the room.

When the first of the practice's partners arrived on the scene after the practice alarm system triggered an alert at around 4.30am on 2 February, they found smoke billowing from a window.

GP practice fire

After calling emergency services, the fire was put out and the practice premises declared a crime scene. Dr Tadpatrikar said it appeared that someone had broken in through a window, 'ransacked the place' and then started a fire on the way out.

The rest of the surgery was saved by a 'robust fire protection system' - with fire doors equipped with  a seal around them that is triggered by heat. 'The fire doors contained the fire to one room only,' the Mansfield GP explained.

But with the premises still smouldering, the partners set about rearranging services to maintain patient care. The Roundwood Surgery is a large practice with 13,000 patients - and some services could be shifted to the practice's smaller branch surgery.

Some reception staff worked from home where maintaining 2m social distancing would not have been possible in the smaller branch premises, and some clinicians also worked at home.

Primary care network

Dr Tadpatrikar said membership of the local primary care network (PCN) helped the practice maintain services despite the fire.

He said: 'I am one of the directors of the Rosewood PCN - we rang all the co-directors, other practices offfered us space. The practices in our PCN are all teaching practices, so we could deploy registrars in those practices without having to send our trainers. It was a good example of collaborative working - that is how good it can be - it has been a benefit of the PCN.'

He said midwifery services run from the practice were moved elsewhere, and 'even baby vaccinations were able to continue' because other practices had enough doses in stock.

The Mansfield GP said that some patients with booked appointments were re-triaged to double check whether they needed to be seen immediately and others were diverted to other locations where they could still be seen by Roundwood Surgery staff. He remained in the surgery car park for most of the day - but only had to redirect a handful of patients who had missed messages and turned up unaware.

Smoke damage

Partners were allowed back into the premises at around 2.30pm on 2 February - and found vaccines stored in the fridge were undamaged, and that beyond smoke damage and the smell of smoke the fire had almost entirely been contained in one room. 

'In the evening the cleaners came in to clean the whole area,' Dr Tadpatrikar said. 'We were open again on 3 February, minus the one room - but also decided not to use a couple of neighbouring rooms because the smoke smell is strong.'

Remarkably, another partner, Dr Simon Cappin, was able to carry on with a scheduled session at a vaccination clinic on 2 February.

Dr Tadpatrikar paid tribute to 'amazing staff' at the practice for their 'resilience and dedication' - and said the response from patients had also been amazing.

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