Calls for 'urgent' changes after surgery is placed in special measures

Calls have been made for change after Orchard Surgery, in Dereham, was placed in special measures

Calls have been made for change after Orchard Surgery, in Dereham, was placed in special measures - Credit: Archant

There have been calls for "urgent" changes at a doctor's surgery after inspectors highlighted a catalogue of failures. 

Orchard Surgery, in Dereham, was last week placed into special measures by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

While the watchdog praised staff for being caring in their jobs, a number of concerns were raised around record-keeping, the way medicines were managed and how patients were monitored.

Orchard Surgery on Commercial Road in Dereham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Orchard Surgery, in Dereham, has been placed in special measures by the Care Quality Commission - Credit: Archant 2021

Workers themselves told inspectors that the surgery was frequently short-staffed and forced to either rely on locums or ask existing staff to take on extra hours.

A spokesman for Orchard Surgery, based in Commercial Road, said partners and staff took the latest rating "very seriously" and would work with health bosses to improve "as soon as possible".

Questions are now being asked about how the practice was allowed to fall into such a negative spiral. 

Alison Webb, district councillor for the area, said problem boiled down to a lack of resource. 

"People's health is really important and you have to have confidence in your surgery," she said.

District councillor Alison Webb organised an informal meeting for residents objecting to new homes i

Alison Webb, one of Breckland's district councillors for Dereham - Credit: Archant

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"It is clear that Orchard Surgery needs to be properly resourced, properly staffed and the procedures obviously need a massive review.

"I know they have lost a couple of doctors, but now is not the time to start blaming Covid. It has been an excuse for a long time to not do things the way we used to.

"Now we need to get a grip on this and move forward. The last thing we want is for something to be missed and for someone to die as a result. It is a risk we cannot take."

However, referencing a series of incidents last year which saw workers targeted with "unacceptable abuse", Mrs Webb emphasised the need for patients to show respect during difficult times. 

"I feel very sorry for the frontline staff if they are getting abused, if people are taking their frustrations out on them," she added.

"But what I would say is that this issue was raised last November, so why have things not been improved?"

George Freeman MP speaking at the official opening of The Blue Lion pub in North Pickenham. Picture:

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk - Credit: Archant

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, also weighed in on the surgery's damning report, calling the CQC's findings "very alarming".

He pledged to play his part in ensuring action is taken. 

Mr Freeman said: "Whilst frontline staff have received praise for the care they give to patients, concerns over how the practice maintains its records, manages medicines, monitors patients and handles the backlog of those waiting to be reviewed must be tackled urgently.

"I am committed to working with local councillors and the NHS to ensure patients see serious improvements delivered in the weeks and months ahead."

Following the report's publication, some people have been sharing their experiences of using Orchard Surgery. 

Orchard Surgery on Commercial Road in Dereham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Orchard Surgery in Commercial Road, Dereham - Credit: Archant

One patient, registered there for more than four decades, said they had noticed a discernible decline in the quality of service in recent times. 

They added: "I have been with the surgery for more than 40 years without any issues. I have been very satisfied with the service I have received.

"However, I have noticed a decline in recent years. I feel the surgery has struggled over the last couple of years due to the pandemic and the loss of doctors due to retirement.

"There are not [problems] with the staff, but with the general availability of appointments and how to book one if it’s not urgent. Wasting more than half an hour every morning in the hope you actually get one is not ideal. Plus regular check-ups requested by hospitals never seem to be carried out."

Linda Monument, a town and district councillor, admitted she felt sorry for staff in their bid to cope with demand. 

Linda Monument, town and district councillor for Dereham

Linda Monument, town and district councillor for Dereham - Credit: Breckland Council

"There is immense difficulty in almost every surgery with getting sufficient staff," said Mrs Monument.

"I don't know how well-manned Orchard Surgery is, but I do know there is a huge shortage of staff across the country. I've no doubt they have been affected.

"I have every sympathy with GPs in trying to keep up with the work and I hope they will be given all the help they need. Nobody wants to see the surgery in any more trouble.

"There is not a lot that any of us patients can do except be as helpful and courteous as we can."