Published: 15:17, 16 July 2020
| Updated: 15:25, 16 July 2020
A healthcare provider in Medway has had further enforcement action taken against it by a regulator after consistently failing to deliver a high standard of service to patients.
St Mary's Island Surgery, in Chatham, was visited by Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors on Friday, July 10, who discovered numerous issues with the healthcare provided.
After finding what Kent and Medway's clinical commissioning group referred to as "significant and ongoing issues of patients being exposed to the risk of harm," the CQC made the decision to remove south London-based provider DMC Healthcare from five of the Medway sites which they have provided care from since April 1, 2019.
Alongside St Mary's Island Surgery, this includes the branch surgeries of Green Suite at Balmoral Healthy Living Centre and Sunlight Centre Surgery in Gillingham; Twydall Branch Surgery in Twydall; and the Pentagon Centre in Chatham.
Following a CQC inspection in January the services were rated "inadequate" overall, meaning all five surgeries were placed in special measures.
Approximately 27,500 patients have their healthcare provided for across these five sites.
It comes after the regulator suspended DMC Healthcare for three months from running services out of its Hoo St Werburgh Medical Practice, at Lower Stoke and Balmoral Gardens, Gillingham, to "protect" patients.
Inspectors found "a list of patient documents had backlogged" in its IT system, according to the company, which took on the service 18 months ago.
Responding to the Hoo St Werburgh suspension, Nadeem Moghal, chief executive of the provider, said: "This was an unexpected and a serious incident and a forensic review was immediately put in place.
"Having taken on the GP practice, which had many challenges, DMC invested in new staff from the community, including a GP lead and experienced practice manager over the past six months."
Despite the CQC's decision, the healthcare provider is able to appeal the enforcement.
The action against the five Medway surgeries was taken on Wednesday, July 15, with temporary healthcare providers now secured in replacement of DMC Healthcare.
Wilf Williams, accountable officer at NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "Patients do not need to take any action. Since the CCG was informed of the CQC’s decision, we have been working hard to put a temporary provider in place to ensure there is minimal disruption to patient care.
"Medway Practices Alliance (MPA), the GP federation that brings together practices and GPs from across Medway to develop quality healthcare, will become the temporary provider with support from Medway Community Healthcare. Patients will be able to phone the practice for appointments and prescriptions as they normally would do.
"We will be working with MPA to ensure telephone appointments continue to be available. This week, patients requiring face-to-face appointments will be offered one at an alternative location. From Monday 20 July, face-to-face appointments will be available at St Mary’s Island Surgery. Patients should continue to ring their practice as usual.
"We will continue to work with MPA, Medway Community Healthcare and other local GP practices in order to return services to normal as quickly as possible."
Mr Williams added: "We have been concerned about DMC Healthcare for some time and have been working with them to improve services, including deploying staff to assist at each of the sites for several weeks prior to Covid-19. However, insufficient improvements were made, leading to the CQC’s enforcement action."
Following the inspection of the St Mary's Island Surgery in January, the regulator rated the overall service "inadequate," stating that processes to support good management were not always effective.
Other issues included fire extinguishers overdue maintenance, medicines requiring refrigeration not being stored in line with Public Health England requirements, and the lead member of staff for safeguarding only working at the premises two days per week.