Agenda item

Zi Fincham of Gillingham asked the Chairman of the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Wildey, the following


Regarding the closure of Sunlight Centre Surgery - the CCG agreed and promised the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee (twice) that all Sunlight Surgery services will be reinstated until at least 2020. DMC, as per the CCG's intentions, has taken control of the surgery. However, instead of keeping their promises they are reducing services and withholding them.


For example:


·      No new patients allowed to sign on – despite DMC’s promise this is not the case;


·      Walk in service being removed from the Sunlight surgery – despite CCG promises this would not happen – notice texted to patients on 24th May with effect from 1st June  - forcing patients needing same day GP appointments to be directed to other surgeries - such as St Mary’s Island;


·      The telephone system for Twydall and the Sunlight (and presumably the other DMC surgeries) have been centralised at St. Mary’s Island – so patients of each surgery cannot directly contact their surgery;


·      There have been many problems with repeat prescriptions being issued on time or at all – with patients, for example my husband and I waiting up to a week for repeat prescription provision;


·      Patient prescriptions being issued from St Mary’s Island, The Pentagon, Balmoral Gardens, surgeries that DMC also run (as my own repeat prescriptions can evidence) – suggesting that personal data is being shared between the surgeries without patient knowledge, agreement or consent which suggests a data protection breach;


·      No patient (as far as I am aware) has been asked if they are happy or in agreement with their personal medical data being shared with any surgery other than the one they are registered with – for example, I have not been approached with information of this nor my agreement or consent been sought;


·      My surgery file, and that of my husband, should both hold letters written approximately 2 years ago (perhaps more), specifically stating that we do not agree to the sharing of our medical data withanyone other than those treating us directly (meaning the GP we are registered under), should only be done after we have given our specific consent, and only after we have received and agreed prior a satisfactory request and explanation of the reason for wishing to do so – DMC should be aware of these, and others’ similar letters – yet DMC appear to be ignoring such specific wishes;


·      No services have been reinstated as promised at the Sunlight Surgery – such as phlebotomy clinic/ Asthma clinic/ small injuries clinic – all existing at the Sunlight Surgery before 1st April 2019;


·      The Surgery Manager put in place by DMC from 1st April 2019 has now left and another member of staff has been appointed as Assistant Practice Manager (as informed in answer to the FOI letter) - but to date this information has not been publicly notified or advertised to patients of the surgery in any shape or form; (I have as of today’s date, 3rd July, just received an email from the Assistant Practice Manager introducing herself and inviting me to a meeting – taken long enough. I have confirmed acceptance, asking for provisional dates I can take to the other PPG members as I do not feel it appropriate to meet with DMC on my own. I am not comfortable representing as a lone representative of the Sunlight PPG);


·      No proper and secure assurance and reassurance of services information has been supplied to the Patient Participation Group so that the PPG can disseminate to patients as to surgery services despite DMC’s promise to meet with the PPG;


·      Lack of GP availability – the Surgery always tell patients ‘one doctor is off sick’ to explain why only one doctor (locum) is working – yet DMC acknowledge in response to the FOI they are still (three months later) ‘actively recruiting staff’ – which indicates this patient information is untrue;


·      There has been a merger of St. Mary’s Island Surgery and Sunlight Surgery which no one knew about or agreed to; and there has still to date been no notification of such merger to the PPG or any other person outside DMC and the CCG;


·      The role of the CCG in monitoring DMC (despite a senior CCG employee’s personal assurance to me of ‘robust monitoring’) and the requirement for the CCG to consult on proposed changes appears to be dismally failing – the same employee admitted to me at a recent PPG Chairs meeting she had ‘no knowledge of what DMC were doing at the Sunlight Surgery’ when confronted with some of the above assertions. This same employee has made these same assertions and given the same emphatic assurances on two other separate occasions previously when I attended meetings with two separate individuals – one a colleague PPG member, the other a Medway Health Campaign representative – both of whom can unequivocally vouch for my assertions re the Sunlight surgery and those statements I assert were made to me.


I have also submitted a freedom of information request to DMC to find out details of the contractual relationship between the CCG and DMC, however, very little has been answered – the majority of the answers sought in the FOI letter have been withheld as DMC state the information is “commercial and in confidence”. This information needs to be made available to help understand how and what services are being provided and will be reinstated.


Taking all of the above into account, it is my strongest belief that the CCG’s actions to date, via DMC and the contractual agreement they refuse to disclose details of, are deliberately, surreptitiously, engineering their original intention to ultimately ensure the closure of the Sunlight Centre Surgery – whilst also, deliberately, breaching data protection rules as enshrined in the Human Rights Act – ‘ protection laws are underpinned by a respect for fundamental human rights...’.


Therefore, given the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny (HASC O&S) Committee reports on the proposals for the Sunlight Centre Surgery in August 2018 and October 2018, will the HASC O&S Committee continue to investigate this matter in accordance with the Local Authority (Public Health, Health and Wellbeing Boards and Health Scrutiny) Regulations 2013?”


Councillor Wildey thanked Ms Fincham for her question. He stated that the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee had determined that the proposal to reduce the number of GP operating sites in Gillingham from five to three was a substantial change to the health service. Therefore, there was now a duty on the Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to consult fully with the Committee and take its comments into account before it implements change.


He stated that in October 2018, following feedback from stakeholders, the CCG advised the Committee that a decision had been taken, in the short term, to procure services for all five GP sites in Gillingham and undertake further engagement with patient and stakeholders before taking a final decision on the number of sites for the future. 


The CCG had advised the Committee that public and patient engagement would commence after May 2019 and that no service change would take place before April 2020. It had also given an undertaking that it would update the Committee at regular intervals throughout the process.


He stated that any changes to GP provision in Gillingham would form part of the Medway model, an approach which aimed to transform local services, including providing additional capacity and capability within primary care.


The Committee was also being kept advised of the wider Kent and Medway transformation plans. These plans would inform the development of existing and future Primary Care Services in Medway. The Council was playing a key strategic role in this process, including helping to shape how local health and care services will be delivered throughout Primary Care Networks. He advised that the changes in Gillingham needed to be considered in that context.


He stated that in answer to Ms Fincham’s question, the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee was expecting to be kept informed by the Clinical Commissioning Group and to be able to comment as the proposals for the future of GP services in Gillingham were developed.


He concluded by stating that he would refer the other more personal and specific concerns raised in Ms Fincham’s question to the CCG and would ask them to respond directly to her, with a copy to him if she agreed, as the Committee could not deal with complaints on matters such as data protection that were specific to individual patients.