Dear Patient of Bath Lodge Practice,

As we begin this New Year, it is good to round up the events of 2017 and to thank you for your continued support, which has been invaluable over the last 12 months. Although the Practice is not yet functioning or performing to the level that we and you would like, we are able to look back and see significant improvement since the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection in October 2016, which rated the Practice as ‘Inadequate’.

That inspection occurred at the lowest ebb of the Practice, when most of the previous Doctors had left or were about to leave and the future of Bath Lodge was gravely uncertain. The critical CQC report was entirely justified, yet did little to encourage the remaining team. However, with your loyal support, and with considerable courage, effort and determination, the staff found new levels of perseverance to ‘weather the storm’ and our future is now looking more positive.

We successfully recruited new Doctors: from January, I was joined by Dr Saad, Dr Verma and, more recently, Dr Eliatamby. In addition, Dr Mariathas returned from maternity leave.  Sadly, Dr Grant left us for pastures new and we are currently recruiting for her replacement. We continue to expand the Clinical Team, through use of Advanced Nurse Practitioners and clinical support staff. We have used Locum Doctors and Nurses when necessary, to ensure adequate provision of appointments.

We benefited briefly from the enthusiasm of a new Practice Manager, Ed Kennedy, who joined in February and moved on to new ventures in September. His departure made room for Jill Webb, who took over as Practice Manager and brought with her 30 years of NHS practice management experience. She is equally enthusiastic, passionate for the Practice and is driven to improve the service to our patients.

In June, we had a further visit from the CQC Inspectors. They were thrilled to see the progress that we had made since October 2016, and duly awarded us a higher rating: ‘Requires Improvement’. We are confident that at their next visit, which we expect within months, they will confirm yet further progress, and agree that we are, at the very least, a ‘Good’ practice.

Yet, of course, we will not settle for either a Good rating, or just the approval of the CQC. What really matters to us is you and your opinion. We continue to meet regularly with the Bath Lodge Practice Patient Participation Group, which communicates with us the views and perceptions of the community. In addition, many of you approach us directly to share your views, and we always welcome feedback and comments. It is clear that we are still not meeting your needs as both you and we would like. We take this very seriously.

Over the coming months, with the fresh insight of our new Practice Manager, we are hoping that you will feel genuine improvement in the telephone system, the appointment system, and our communication with you. You are exhausted with waiting to get through on the telephone; you are frustrated with the apparent lack of appointment availability; you are tired of feeling like we are not listening to your complaints or queries. We share your frustrations and concerns and want to continue to do something about them. We can do better in all these areas, and it is our commitment to you to change things for the better.

As you know well, NHS resources remain scarce, demands continue to escalate and the entire system is under enormous strain. As a Practice, we have spent much of the last year simply focusing on stabilising things. In this current climate, progress is inevitably slow and, rather than lamenting the apparent lack of grand success or large-scale development within the Practice, we celebrate that we are still open and able to provide you with a service. We know the progress that we have made, much of which is less visible or tangible to those outside of the staff team. But still we strive for better and are confident that we now have the solid foundation from which to grow more obviously to you and all our community.

The NHS England’s ‘5 Year Forward View’ is a strategy for dealing with the growing demand for health care against a £30 billion deficit. Inevitably, part of the strategy involves changing the way things have been done in the NHS. All of us must brace ourselves for the changes ahead. Our growth as a Practice has to incorporate the wider NHS Strategy, such as providing a broader Clinical skill mix, rather than just employing more Doctors; or encouraging use of, and redirecting patients to, alternative health care providers, such as the pharmacy or self-help options; or consulting patients via email or internet, instead of the traditional face-to-face method. While some of these changes may be challenging for you and us to adopt, we must all accept that these measures are necessary to keep our NHS alive in some shape or form.

We at Bath Lodge remain committed to providing an excellent service to you; your health and well-being are at the heart of everything that we do. Your continued support and encouragement are vital to the process.

Yours sincerely and to your very good health,

Dr Richard Baxter    On behalf of the Team at Both Lodge Practice