Survey shows what Portsmouth patients thought of GP mergers 

Milton Park Surgery was one practice involved in a merger in the past five years. Picture: Malcolm Wells
Milton Park Surgery was one practice involved in a merger in the past five years. Picture: Malcolm Wells
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PATIENTS have experienced mixed results following the merger of GP practices, a survey has shown. 

A review of the mergers in Portsmouth was held and as part of the process, patients were asked to give their views.

For some of the moves, patients said they had benefited from longer opening hours, increased access to alternative clinicians and better specialist care.

But at other practices, the patients said getting an appointment was still a problem along with getting their choice of GP.

Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which undertook the survey with Healthwatch Portsmouth, oversees the mergers and said the report was a good insight but highlighted problems primary care is facing nationally.

In the past five years there have been 10 practice mergers in the city, three branch site closures and two site moves.

The survey for one merger found only 20 per cent of patients agreed they had a wider choice of appointment and 18 per cent agreed they had better access. 

But for a different merger, 77 per cent agreed the opening hours were better while from a third merger 82 per cent of patients agreed they had better access to specialist care.

The survey also interviewed clinical and non-clinical staff at the practices. The report said internal benefits included the ability to share best practice and refine policies plus more opportunity for clinical peer support. There were also comments from non-clinical staff that there was more cover now in place, and greater opportunity for role development.’

Terri Russell, the CCG’s deputy director of primary care, said: ‘While this survey involved practices which have merged, it’s probably fair to say that some of the issues, such as access to GPs, probably also apply to those GP practices which have not merged, both in Portsmouth and nationally.

‘What we can say for certainty is that “no change” was not an option for those practices which have merged, particularly the smaller ones. The Portsmouth mergers have undoubtedly ensured that some practices facing closure have been able to stay open, recruit and retain staff, and offer their patients extended opening hours.’