About 50 patients learned first-hand about upcoming changes to the Christmas Maltings and Clements Practice in Haverhill during an information evening.
Suffolk GP Federation will take on the running of the practice from the beginning of July and representatives were on hand to answer questions and explain more.
Growing patient numbers and difficulties recruiting new GPs to replace those who have left have put the practice under severe pressure.
Dr Fiona Andrews, senior partner at Christmas Maltings and Clements, told patients: “We have been a member of Suffolk GP Federation for many years and when they suggested that they could step in and help we felt it was a very positive way forward.
“It means that the partners – rather than continuing to worry about running the practice and spending time on paperwork and other managerial tasks – can concentrate on doing the job that we were trained to do, treating patients.”
Suffolk GP Federation is a not for profit community interest company and executive director Nick Rayner, a GP in Newmarket, assured patients that they would not be ‘top slicing’ any income.
“The practice will continue to be funded in exactly the same way as it is now, with money sourced through NHS England and the local clinical commissioning group,” he said.
“Any extra income that we’re able to secure will be reinvested into patient services. That’s the difference between a Federation and a private company – we will not be slicing any off the top.”
Among the changes Suffolk GP Federation will be introducing is a new way to book appointments.
A wider pool of healthcare professionals such as nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists will also see and treat patients where appropriate.
Dr Rayner continued: “Unfortunately, the current arrangement of patients turning up and waiting for an appointment just isn’t working.
“As a result, from August, patients will have to contact the practice in advance over the phone.
“They will be spoken to by a member of staff who will take enough details for a GP to call them back.
“The GP will then assess the patient over the phone – arranging an appointment with an appropriate member of staff at an appropriate time depending on urgency. It may be, for example, that someone with back pain is referred to a physio or someone wanting a repeat prescription is sent to the pharmacist.
“By drawing on the skills of other healthcare professionals it means that those patients who do need to see a GP should find it easier to get an appointment.
“It’s a system that’s very successful in other Suffolk practices.”
The new booking system will be trialled for three months and patients will be able to provide feedback.
Jules Styles, Suffolk GP Federation’s director of primary care services, said: “We recognise there will be teething problems and we would ask patients to bear with us. We will provide plenty of opportunities for patients to have their say so we can assess the system and make any necessary changes.”
The changes will only be put in place at Christmas Maltings and Clements – patients at the satellite surgery in Kedington will not be affected.
A new Christmas Maltings and Clements Facebook page has been set up to keep people up to date with any changes, while they can also join the surgery’s patient participation group (PPG).
Suffolk GP Federation will also be creating a practice management board made up of staff and at least one patient representative to help shape future services.
Dr Andrews added: “It’s important that patients have their say and that we work collaboratively to further develop services.”