A GP surgery in Stowmarket has been rated ‘outstanding’ by health watchdogs for its innovative and caring services.
Stowhealth, in Violet Hill Road, is the only practice out of 50 recently inspected by the Care Quality Commission to have received the top grade.
Inspectors hailed the surgery as a ‘real asset to the community’ and noted that staff went ‘above and beyond their level of duty to care for patients’ with ‘excellent feedback’ from staff and clinical teams.
Dr Mark Shenton, a GP partner at the practice, said: “It’s extremely pleasing. This is a reflection from an outside agency on how we’ve been trying to manage our practice for many years. We felt we had been doing the right kinds of things, we felt we had a patient focus and the inspection is basically saying this appears to be the case.”
The practice was commended for providing a fully equipped gym with qualified fitness instructors to help patients improve their mobility, manage body weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Inspectors highlighted how the surgery had adapted its appointments system so patients rarely had to wait until the next day to obtain an appointment or telephone advice. This had resulted in a 10 per cent reduction in A&E attendance by patients aged over 75 between 2013/14 and 2014/15. It had also helped cut emergency admission rates amongst people with cancer by 58 per cent from 2010 to 2013 - the sixth lowest cancer admission rate in the local Clinical Commissioning Group area.
Dr Shenton said they had tried as much as possible to ensure the whole team was accessible to patients on the day.
“We have a telephone first approach for the doctors and our minor illnesses team in terms of managing patients’ demands so when they call us we do try to phone them as soon as we can. A lot of which can be dealt with on the phone - sometimes it requires coming in and we can talk to them about when they can come in.”
He added that they have a nurse whose specific role is to help manage the over 75 population at high risk of admission and the practice works with different agencies such as social services and mental health services.
They also have long term condition nurses who visit housebound patients.
“It’s about giving good access to patients so you’re trying to manage their problems as soon as possible so they don’t feel the need to pitch upto A&E to get assessed.”
Stowhealth, which has 12 GPs as well as a variety of nurses and healthcare assistants, has won awards for its integrated approach to long term medical conditions. Clinics were run weekly to ensure patients received a one stop medication and health condition review.
One area in which the practice was told to improve was around the security of blank presciption forms and security of medicines waiting to be collected by patients. Dr Shenton said they had already been addressing the issue of prescriptions but weren’t able to give inspectors ‘absolute assurance’ on the day.
Janet Williamson, deputy chief inspector of general practice in CQC’s central region, said: “We found that the practice displayed an excellent understanding of the differing needs of their patients and staff demonstrated a commitment to help and support them. All of this hard work pays off in making a real difference to patients - which is why we have found this practice to be outstanding.”