In last month’s Sunbury Matters we wrote about the strain on resources as the local population continues to grow and our village expands. Well, one of those resources put under a lot of pressure deserves a big pat on the back for providing a great service – Sunbury Health Centre.

Gone are the queues at dawn and instead a new dawn has been ushered in. Business Manager Richard Fryer arrived a couple of years ago and working closely with the GP Partners, Practice staff and the Patient Participation Group (PPG), set about making positive changes. A CQC inspection had rated the Health Centre as ‘requires improvement’ on a number of issues but only 6 months later rated it as ’Good’ on every aspect.

Some things take longer than others, and there is still much to do, but you will have noticed changes for sure:
The waiting room has been given a makeover, with a bright new feel and walls bedecked with local art and photography organised by the PPG. Space has been better utilised and as a result an additional consulting room has been created adding 10% more capacity.

More staff have been recruited for reception and the desk itself is now ‘open’ at lunchtimes. It was never in fact closed, but as the shutter was down it might have seemed that way.

The message is now “we are here to help”. Staff are on hand at reception and on the telephone lines from 8am now, half an hour earlier than previously.
Staffing has been made more efficient generally. There is a long term group of dedicated doctors and some excellent nurses & health care assistants, some of which are now training to be nurse practitioners and prescribers.

With 400-500 patient contacts per day and 6-7 doctors on duty each day, it is important to direct patients’ needs as efficiently as possible. This is why you may well be asked some questions by the receptionist. They are not prying, they are trying to get you seen quickly by the best person available.

It is estimated that 25% of doctor appointments could in fact have been handled by another colleague at the centre. As a result of better planning, referral letters are being turned around more quickly and patients monitored more efficiently for chronic conditions.

Thanks to investments in technology and working practices, the appointment system has recently been overhauled. 50% of GP appointments and most nurse appointments are now available to be pre-booked (up to 6 weeks in advance) and 50% of GP appointments are available on the day itself. Appointments are released on the day in batches, but you can book online or on the automated telephone system from 6am. The emergency duty doctor will also provide a service for those seriously ill, as needed.

The automated phone service has also been improved and new IT has been introduced within the entire practice. Facilities such as a text reminder of appointments have cut ‘no shows’ significantly meaning a much better service.

The annual Flu clinics attracted 3000 patients but ran very efficiently, with the added bonus of raising charity funds through a cake stall organised by the administrative staff and the PPG.

It is not just about maintaining a good routine service but also identifying and providing new ones. It is hoped that minor surgery may soon be offered at the health centre which would be a boon for many.

The health centre is keen to engage with the local community to listen to concerns and ideas. The PPG Core Group and Health Centre staff meets every 6 weeks and working closely together to drive changes and developments forward. There is a PPG Open Meeting held three times a year which regularly attracts 80-100 patients. With Spelthorne and Surrey Councillors, LOSRA and the MP for Spelthorne Kwasi Kwarteng all adding their considerable practical support, this really is a health centre for the community.

In a practice with 18,500 patients, designed to deal with only 6000, you have to admire the tenacity and professionalism with which staff handle the pressure.