The changing face of how we see doctors

NHS organisations give advice on where to get treatment this winter

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As the population gets older, people get used to living in a 24/7 world and conditions become more complex, it’s only right the way we see our doctor adapts.

More and more practices are merging in order to provide a better service for patients, and to help cope with a national shortage of GPs.

Mergers could involve practices working in a partnership across several sites, or one closing and being absorbed by others.

Forest End Surgery, in Forest End, Aintree Drive Surgery, and Waterlooville Health Centre, currently work together.

But from April next year Stakes Lodge Surgery, in Lavender Road, Waterlooville, will join the fold.

And the four practices will come under the banner name of Vine Medical Group, and likely to start working together in April next year.

All four sites will keep their individual names and stay in the same location.

Stakes Lodge has 7,500 registered patients, and Dr Michael White is one of the practice partners.

He says: ‘From a doctor’s point of view, we will be able share expertise between different partners who might have specialist knowledge in different areas.

‘So you might have a doctor that specialises in ear, nose and throat care, or with they eyes or cardiology.

‘With more doctors working together, there’s more scope to offer earlier, later and weekend appointments.’

It is also key all four practices maintain their separate identities.

Elaine Korab is practice manager at the Forest End Surgery site.

She says: ‘The aim is to try to keep the identity of each practice because we know that’s what patients want.

‘We know patients really value that and we want to retain that.

‘What it also means is those who need to see a GP quickly for a “one-off” problem, then they have a choice of places to go to so they can be seen quicker.

‘Those who have complex, long-term conditions, should still hopefully have continuity where possible and see the same doctor.’

As the demand for doctors increases, it means more patients need to be seen.

Dr Olivia Boocock, who works at Forest End, says: ‘Compared to 25 years ago, we are seeing many more patients who need longer sessions because they have more complex needs.

‘There are also more female GPs who want to work part time and there is a shortage of GPs, so we need to work together.’

It’s a view backed by Dr Alastair Bateman, from Stakes Lodge, who says: ‘We believe this merge will ensure we are in a strong position to meet the demands of a changing NHS.

‘Across the UK, practices are transforming how GP services are provided to meet both the rising demand of patient numbers and health complexities – and to cope with existing and predicted shortfalls of GP and nurse recruitment.

‘We have a strong working relationship between the two practices, and we share the same vision to improve the care experiences of our patients where possible.

‘We hope this move will also mean we have to use fewer temporary GPs, thereby improving continuity of care for our patients.’

The scheme has been welcomed by Forest End’s patient participation group.

Tony Corner, 50, of Purbrook, is the chairman of the Forest End patient participation group.

He says: ‘The surgery came to us about the idea and it seems to make sense.

‘Last year we went through a bigger merger with three practices and that is working really well.

‘I can understand why these practices are coming together, because in that way they can offer more to patients and makes sense financially.

‘For me this will be a positive thing.

‘Already we have a paramedics based at the sites, who can go out on home visits where appropriate.

‘And a GP will be with telephonists so it’s appropriate to speak to a doctor then you can do so.’

Any patient wanting to comment can contact Ms Korab:

Write to Elaine Korab, business manager, Forest End Surgery, Waterlooville, PO7 7AH.

Or call (023) 9224 6460.