MP's addresses care concerns at Ipswich medical practice

Norwich Road Surgery sign with inset Dan Poulter photo

Dr Dan Poulter has written to the Care Quality Commission about the patient care at Cardinal Medical Practice - Credit: Gregg Brown/Sarah Lucy Brown

An Ipswich MP has called for patient concerns to be addressed by health bosses following a "very concerning" number of complaints about an Ipswich medical practice. 

Dr Dan Poulter has written directly to the chief executive of the Care Quality Commission following complaints about the Cardinal Medical Practice from residents, parish councils and clinicians.

The practicing doctor and MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich said his response was "not something I do lightly and nor have I done it before". 

He set out three issues including lengthy waits to book appointments, lack of phone/video consultations and lack of timely face-to-face consultations. 

Dr Poulter said he's been directly approached by Ipswich Hospital clinicians who fear that patients are not receiving appropriate care at the practice, with some presenting more unwell at the hospital as a result. 

Dr Dan Poulter MP.

Dr Dan Poulter has written to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

In the letter, Dr Poulter wrote: "As a practising NHS doctor myself, I am sympathetic to the challenges that have been faced by all parts of the healthcare system, including general practice, during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

"That said, the number of complaints I have received about Cardinal Medical Practice is very concerning. 

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"I have contacted the surgery directly and understand that it has recognised that it needs to improve patient services and experience, but improvements have not taken place in a timely manner." 

Earlier this month, nearly 50 patients signed a letter to the practice expressing concerns as doctors worked through the night to deliver care.

His concerns have been raised with Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, as well as the CQC. 

A spokesman for Cardinal Medical Practice said: "We are wholly committed to ensuring our patients receive the best of care at all times and have an action plan in place with the aim of resolving these outstanding issues.

"We have already shared this plan with the CQC, local MPs and the CCG and are working hard on its implementation.

"Although we know there is still work to do, much has been achieved in the last few months.

"This includes the recruitment of two GPs, a practice paramedic, an advanced nurse practitioner, a clinical pharmacist and a care coordinator, and we are actively recruiting even more staff.

"We are confident that the majority of our patients are receiving good, safe care and are offering around 12,000 appointments each month.

"All our staff are working incredibly hard for patients and we thank them for their continued efforts."

A spokesman for the CQC said: "We were aware of issues at this practice through our engagement with patients, the provider of the service and the local clinical commissioning group. The information Dr Poulter raises is further informing our monitoring of the service.

 "We are also meeting the practice's leaders in the coming weeks to discuss the service's performance."

This comes less than a week after plans were announced for a "new super surgery" as part of Cardinal Medical Practice to serve the north-west Ipswich and Claydon area.

The letter sent by Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter directly to the chief executive of the CQC.

The letter sent by Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter directly to the chief executive of the CQC. - Credit: Dan Poulter

The letter in full:

I am writing to ask you to investigate concerns that have been raised with me by a number of local residents, parish councils, and clinicians at Ipswich Hospital (East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust) about Cardinal Medical Practice in North Ipswich which has a little over 30,000 registered patients. 

As a practicing NHS doctor myself, I am sympathetic to the challenges that have been faced by all parts of the healthcare system, including general practice, during the Covid-19 pandemic.   

That said, the number of complaints I have received about Cardinal Medical Practice is very concerning.  

There are three main issues which have been raised with me - 

1) Access to the surgery: patients are struggling to get through on the phone to the surgery. Waits on the telephone in excess of an hour are not uncommon and patients who contact the surgery by electronic methods wait many days for a response.

2) Patient access to virtual/phone consultations takes several days and in some cases weeks after initial triage of phone calls or electronic contact with the surgery. 

3) Some patients not receiving timely or indeed any access to face-to-face consultations where these may be appropriate. This issue has been raised with me directly by clinicians, including those at Ipswich Hospital who are concerned that patients are not being properly worked up or investigated by primary care services and in some cases are presenting more unwell at the hospital as a result. 

I am happy to share with you a number of emails and other more detailed information that I have received from patients (whilst maintaining confidentiality) if that would be helpful.

I understand that the surgery has recognised that it needs to improve patient services and experience, but improvements have not taken in a timely manner.

I have raised the matter with Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, who are now investigating, and I would be grateful if you would also look into the matter for the benefit of local patients.