Action to turn round Witney health centre wins praise

Witney Gazette: From left, practice manager Emira Shepherd, healthcare assistant Kay Tucker, Brenda Churchill, district councillor Mark Booty and practice nurse Louise Gray From left, practice manager Emira Shepherd, healthcare assistant Kay Tucker, Brenda Churchill, district councillor Mark Booty and practice nurse Louise Gray

PATIENTS say worries about a lack of staffing and services at a Witney GP surgery have now been addressed.

Deer Park Medical Centre was criticised last summer after temporary locum doctors were brought in and a telephone prescription line was suspended.

Patients struggled to get appointments to see the same doctor and some living in rural areas resorted to calling pharmacies to ensure they got repeat prescriptions.

But now Virgin Care, which has run the surgery since 2010, has hired three permanent doctors and reinstated the prescription line.

Patients’ forum member Brenda Churchill said: “There has been quite a big improvement. They’re starting to reinstate quite a lot of things that were taken away and we’re confident that things are going to continue to get better.”

She added: “It had got really bad before. You couldn’t see the same doctor twice, because they had mostly locums and they didn’t have a telephone repeat prescription service, so you had to go to the surgery. The surgery covers quite a rural area and people started ringing a chemist to get their repeat prescriptions. It was chaotic.”

Mrs Churchill said about 500 patients had switched to other doctors because of the persistent problems, but many had since returned.

Before June last year, the surgery had no practice manager, no lead GP on site and no practice nurse.

Patients were also waiting up to two weeks for an appointment to see a doctor.

West Oxfordshire District Council called Virgin Care representatives to a meeting to discuss the problems.

Mark Booty, the council’s cabinet member for health and community safety, said: “Things have certainly improved and are improving.

“The practice manager is a local lady and she wants it to work, and she’s working hard.”

Virgin Care said the practice had been underperforming when it took over.

Practice manager Emira Shepherd said: “When we were awarded the contract to run the Deer Park Medical Centre, we knew it would be a challenge, but that’s what we’re all about – improving NHS services and making them more responsive to patients’ needs.

“With the help of the council, as well as local residents and patients, we have listened to what patients really value and worked hard to improve the service.

“There are still improvements to be made but we’re pleased that progress so far was recognised and applauded by councillors.”

She said the medical centre was looking to make its patients’ forum more representative and invited patients interested in improving the service to get in touch.

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